SYDNEY MORNING HERALD
Oscar-winning filmmaker Paul Haggis has severed his ties with the Church of Scientology in protest against the sect's position on gays and its treatment of members, it was reported on Monday.
The Canadian-born director, who scooped Oscars for the hit films Crash and Million Dollar Baby, resigned from the organisation in a letter to church spokesman Tommy Davis.
The letter, which surfaced on the blog of former Scientologist Marty Rathbun, was dated August 19.
Blasting the highly secretive organisation as "morally reprehensible", Haggis took Davis to task for not denouncing statements by the church's San Diego branch supporting Proposition 8, a controversial ban on gay marriage in California.
"The church's refusal to denounce the actions of these bigots, hypocrites and homophobes is cowardly. I can think of no other word," Haggis wrote in the August 19 letter that was later published on the blog of former Scientologist Marty Rathbun.
"Silence is consent, Tommy. I refuse to consent."
Haggis, 56, said he had urged Davis to speak out against the ballot measure but received no reply.
He also criticised the church for its alleged policy of "disconnection" in which members must cut ties with anyone deemed critical of the organisation that counts Tom Cruise, John Travolta and Fatal Attraction star Anne Archer -- Davis's mother -- among its followers.
Haggis said his wife, Deborah Rennard, had been forced to "disconnect" from her parents after they resigned from the church, and did not speak to them for a year and a half.
"Although it caused her terrible personal pain, my wife broke off all contact with them," Haggis wrote.
"I refused to do so. I've never been good at following orders, especially when I find them morally reprehensible."
He repeated accusations by other former Scientologists that church leader David Miscavige routinely abused staff mentally and physically, and that the group denigrates former members by leaking details of their private lives to the media.
Founded in 1954 by science fiction novelist L Ron Hubbard, the Church of Scientology claims to have over eight million members who attend 6,000 churches in 159 countries.
The church could not immediately be reached for comment.