Director Paul Haggis was a devoted scientologist for nearly 35 years, but resigned in late 2009 citing the Church of Scientology of San Diego's support of Proposition 8 (and the Church of Scientology International's subsequent failure to decry its actions) as the deciding factor in his decampment. Astonishingly, it seems Haggis had been hitherto unaware of outside perceptions of his faith, and the sudden onslaught of unpleasant truths prompted him to -- at last -- speak up.
In his letter of resignation to Tommy Davis, the church spokesperson, Haggis openly wrote:
I feel strongly about this for a number of reasons. You and I both know there has been a hidden anti-gay sentiment in the church for a long time. I have been shocked on too many occasions to hear Scientologists make derogatory remarks about gay people, and then quote L.R.H. in their defense.Haggis went on to acknowledge the long-denied practice of disconnection -- the severance of ties between a practicing Scientologist and any figure in their life that is critical of the faith:
We all know this policy exists. I didn’t have to search for verification — I didn’t have to look any further than my own home. [My wife was urged to disconnect from her family] because of something absolutely trivial they supposedly did twenty-five years ago when they resigned from the church... Although it caused her terrible personal pain, [she] broke off all contact with them. To see you lie so easily [about the practice of disconnection], I am afraid I had to ask myself... What else are you lying about?It should come as no surprise that Haggis' message has not been well-received within the Scientology community.
New fact-checking efforts have been similarly damaging. While researching for his article in The New Yorker, Lawrence Wright found evidence contrary to the most basic assertion of L. Ron Hubbard's Dianetics, the publication upon which Scientology was founded. In an interview with NPR's Terry Gross, Wright recounted the story:
I had found evidence that Hubbard was never actually injured during the war... And so we pressed [Church of Scientology spokesperson Tommy Davis] for evidence that there had been such injuries and [Hubbard] had been the war hero that he described. Eventually, Davis sent us what is called a notice of separation — essentially discharge papers from World War II — along with some photographs of all of these medals that [Hubbard] had won... At the same time, we finally gained access to Hubbard's entire World War II records [through a request to the military archives] and there was no evidence that he had ever been wounded in battle or distinguished himself in any way during the war. We also found another notice of separation which was strikingly different than the one that the church had provided. [Additionally,] there were a number of different discrepancies on there that make it clear that [the Scientology document] wasn't an actual record. In the 900-odd pages of Hubbard's war records, there were numerous letters from other researchers from over the years. One of them had inquired about [the name on Hubbard's notice of separation]. And the archivist at the time said they had thoroughly researched the roles of Navy officers at the time and there was no such person.Hubbard's claims that he healed his war injuries were previously murky at best, but now there's proof that he was never injured to begin with? The most basic tenet of Scientology is false, and the fallout could be colossal. Colossal, or virtually negligible. Again, Wright:
It's hard to measure, because we're dealing with a religion and people are drawn to it because of faith. And if it were simply a matter of reason, then one could put this [document about Hubbard's service] down in front of you and say, "Here is conclusive proof that the founder of Scientology lied about his military record and lied about his injuries and lied about the fundamental principles out of which he created the Church of Scientology." But that may not matter to people who are involved in it, who may feel they are gaining something from their experience — either because they feel like the truths of Scientology enhance their lives or because the community of Scientologists that they live among is something like their family. So they intentionally shield themselves from knowing these types of things.