(Updated with Scientology statement) Facing accusations of sexual misconduct from four women, Paul Haggis has repeatedly pointed to the Church of Scientology as perhaps playing a role in those claims. Today, Leah Remini and another high-profile former Scientologist and critic of the organization has come forward to defend the Crash director and question the involvement of the church in what Haggis has called a “public hanging.”
“We expect the next ‘revelations’ about Paul Haggis in this campaign to destroy him to be based on information culled from his scientology files in the form of more ‘anonymous’ accusers, hiding behind a lawyer who will never have to disclose who is paying their bill,” said Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath co-host Mike Rinder and Remini on Monday. (Read Remini and Rinder’s full letter below.)
“Leah Remini, Paul Haggis and Mike Rinder have predictably thrown up a reprehensible smokescreen to turn horrific sexual assault and rape allegations made against Haggis by four women into a bigoted attack about their former religion,” responded Scientology on Monday to the linkage. “To be clear, the Church has never met the women in this case nor their attorneys and knows nothing about the accusations against Haggis other than what has appeared in press reports and public court documents,” Church international spokesperson Karin Pouw told Deadline. (See the full statement from the Church of Scientology below.)
Having first been accused late last year by publicist Haleigh Breest of raping her in his New York City apartment in 2013, Haggis faced further allegations earlier this month when a trio of women went public. Haggis sued Breest, who has said she has nothing to do with Scientology, and is being sued by her; he is scheduled to sit down for a deposition in front of her Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady LLP attorneys January 29.
In a January 9 court filing calling a Haggis’ response to the claims a “disgrace” and a “PR stunt,” Breest also took aim at the brandishing by Haggis of a backroom role by Scientology in the matter.
“Mr. Haggis also questions whether Scientology has any role here, which he notes has been attacking him for years with false accusations,” the filmmakers reps said when the three women made their claims January 5. Breest’s allegations were first made public by Haggis in December in a lawsuit after the publicist supposedly asked for $9 million to keep the whole thing quiet.
“Those who accuse without going to law enforcement, those who seek hush money to keep their stories secret, those who make accusations to the media anonymously – they are suspect,” Remini and Rinder added in their open letter today posted on the former Scientology executive’s blog. “And when the target of these tactics is someone who is a prominent critic of scientology, it is very suspect.”
“Paul Haggis deserves, based on his record as a gentleman and humanitarian, to be judged when all the evidence has been taken under penalty of perjury in a court of law,” Remini and Rinder conclude their letter, calling the Oscar winner a “good man” as well. “Because claims of anonymous accusers who have NOT gone to law enforcement are not credible.”
As depicted in her Emmy-winning A&E Network series, Remini has been a scathing critic of Scientology, its methods and its tactics against critics. Haggis exited the organization in 2009 and has spoken often about the threatening blowback he says he has received from the church for leaving, and for questioning it.
Since also exiting Scientology in 2013, Remini has made a number of public appearances with Haggis talking about the church, including the Million Dollar Baby screenwriter going before the cameras in Scientology and the Aftermath’s second season last year.
Here is Remini and Rinder’s letter in full:
There is plenty of reason to worry about defending anyone accused of sexual assault in today’s climate. But the fear of consequences for speaking our truth has not held us back in the past and isn’t about to start now.
We have supported victims of sexual abuse who have reached out to us and have worked with them and law enforcement to ensure justice is done for both victims and the accused. We have avoided trial by media.
In this time of heightened awareness of sexual predators, it is easy to remain quiet when an injustice is being perpetrated for fear of being tarred as politically incorrect. But more important to us than being politically correct is standing up for what we believe is right.
Paul Haggis is a good man who has been a friend to us and so many others. He has championed the rights of women, the LGBT community and has fought for and devoted himself to the underprivileged in the world. These are not “PR stunts” — he has devoted his time, skill and money to worthy causes without fanfare for decades.
Like all of us, Paul Haggis is not perfect. Unlike a lot of us, he is truly a gentleman. A gentle man, with impeccable manners and a generous heart.
Like those of us who were scientologists, we trusted and confided in our church to seek resolution for our shortcomings. What is different about scientology is the detailed records they maintain of everything you tell them. And beyond that, they conduct intense interrogations based on the idea that only when all specifics and details are disclosed can one find relief. The names, dates, and minute details of any indiscretions, and even thoughts, are all recorded.
It is not a crime to be attracted to women (or men). It’s not a crime to flirt. Or to have sexual relations with someone. It might not be acceptable to your significant other (if you have one), but it certainly isn’t criminal nor worthy of newspaper headlines.
Only a scientologist can understand the pressure one feels to offer up even the slightest thing that the scientology organization might consider a transgression of THEIR mores. This information is used against anyone who departs scientology and dares speak their mind. This is not imaginary. There is a documented history of such things. When someone is a declared an “enemy” by scientology, they are fair game.
With the name of everyone one might have thought of, flirted with or taken on a date, it takes little imagination to conjure a string of accusers being contacted and suddenly appearing out of the woodwork.
We expect the next “revelations” about Paul Haggis in this campaign to destroy him to be based on information culled from his scientology files in the form of more “anonymous” accusers, hiding behind a lawyer who will never have to disclose who is paying their bill.
Those who accuse without going to law enforcement, those who seek hush money to keep their stories secret, those who make accusations to the media anonymously – they are suspect. And when the target of these tactics is someone who is a prominent critic of scientology, it is very suspect.
Paul Haggis deserves, based on his record as a gentleman and humanitarian, to be judged when all the evidence has been taken under penalty of perjury in a court of law. Because claims of anonymous accusers who have NOT gone to law enforcement are not credible.
Here is the statement in response from the Church of Scientology:
Leah Remini, Paul Haggis and Mike Rinder have predictably thrown up a reprehensible smokescreen to turn horrific sexual assault and rape allegations made against Haggis by four women into a bigoted attack about their former religion.
Today’s transparent ploy by Remini and Rinder fails to mention that plaintiff Haleigh Breest’s court papers definitively state that “Ms. Breest has nothing to do with Scientology. Being a critic of Scientology does not give a man permission to rape.” Furthermore, Remini and Rinder conveniently fail to mention that the three additional women making allegations against Haggis all are on record to the Associated Press as stating that they are not Scientologists—as if an alleged rape victim’s religion should matter—and that these allegations have nothing to do with the Church. Not only are Remini and Rinder mouthing a debunked conspiracy theory that was dead on arrival when they posted today’s rant, they further offend countless other alleged victims with stunning insensitivity.
To be clear, the Church has never met the women in this case nor their attorneys and knows nothing about the accusations against Haggis other than what has appeared in press reports and public court documents. We find it hypocritical and appalling for Haggis, Remini and especially Rinder—who has his own history of domestic violence and bullying women and who has no other source of income outside of attacking Scientology—to attempt to divert discussion about the subject of sexual abuse and the mistreatment of women with provably false claims to promote their hate-filled agenda.