On 19 August 2009, Tommy Davis, the chief spokesperson for the Church of Scientology International, received a letter from the film director and screenwriter Paul Haggis. “For 10 months now I have been writing to ask you to make a public statement denouncing the actions of the Church of Scientology of San Diego,” Haggis wrote. Before the 2008 elections, a staff member at Scientology’s San Diego church had signed its name to an online petition supporting Proposition 8, which asserted that the state of California should sanction marriage only “between a man and a woman”. The proposition passed. As Haggis saw it, the San Diego church’s “public sponsorship of Proposition 8, which succeeded in taking away the civil rights of gay and lesbian citizens of California – rights that were granted them by the Supreme Court of our state – is a stain on the integrity of our organisation and a stain on us personally. Our public association with that hate-filled legislation shames us.” Haggis wrote, “Silence is consent, Tommy. I refuse to consent.” He concluded, “I hereby resign my membership in the Church of Scientology.”
Haggis was prominent in both Scientology and Hollywood, two communities that often converge. Although he is less famous than certain other Scientologists, such as Tom Cruise and John Travolta, he had been in the organisation for nearly 35 years. Haggis wrote the screenplay for Million Dollar Baby, which won the Oscar for Best Picture in 2004, and he wrote and directed Crash, which won Best Picture the next year. Davis, too, is part of Hollywood society: his mother is Anne Archer, who starred in Fatal Attraction and Patriot Games.
In previous correspondence with Davis, Haggis had demanded that the church publicly renounce Proposition 8. “I feel strongly about this for a number of reasons,” he wrote. “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 LRH in their defence.” The initials stand for L Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology, whose extensive writings and lectures form the church’s scripture. Haggis related a story about Katy, the youngest of three daughters from his first marriage, who lost the friendship of a fellow Scientologist after revealing that she was gay. The friend began warning others, “Katy is ‘1.1’.” The number refers to a sliding Tone Scale of emotional states that Hubbard published in a 1951 book, The Science Of Survival. A person classified “1.1” was, Hubbard said, “Covertly Hostile” – “the most dangerous and wicked level” – and he noted that people in this state engaged in such things as casual sex, sadism and homosexual activity. Hubbard’s Tone Scale, Haggis wrote, equated “homosexuality with being a pervert”. (Such remarks don’t appear in recent editions of the book.)