Paul Haggis left the Church of Scientology nearly three years ago, but the Oscar-winning writer and director said the looming shadow of the oppressive organization still follows him.
Haggis very publicly split with the church in 2011, criticizing the organization for the control it exerts over the lives of followers. He even compared it to a cult.
Now, as he is set to release his new film Third Person, Paul Haggis is again opening up about the Church of Scientology. He claimed that those who dare to defect and speak out against the church face extreme bullying from Scientology officials.
Haggis added that he is still weary about interacting with members.
“It was chilling to see how scared they were about speaking out or leaving. Just leaving. Just letting people know they’d left, they were scared,” Haggis told HuffPost Live. “Well-known people come to me who have been in secretly and have left secretly and just don’t want anyone to ever know.”
Haggis admitted that getting away from Scientology’s reach was part of the reason he moved from Los Angeles to New York City, though not the main reason.
“I did move from L.A. to New York for a reason, though. Not just for that, but because I wanted to be part of a community that wasn’t just one business,” he told The Daily Beast. “I wanted to meet people who had different and fascinating jobs and interests. In L.A., you’re either in the film business or in weaponry. Which I guess is the same business. But, yes, I suppose Scientology has more of a foothold there than it does here. They can’t go through my trash here, for example.”
While he doesn’t shy away from his criticism of the Church of Scientology, Paul Haggis said he doesn’t want that to define him.
“I don’t want to be known as ‘The Anti-Scientology Guy.’ I’ve made my point, and I don’t run from it,” Haggis “But it doesn’t define me as much as my work in movies, or my work in Haiti.”
But whether he wants the title or not, Haggis has become something of a spokesperson for the anti-Scientology movement. His speaking out against the church coincided with an exodus of many top-ranking officials who have also been vocal in their criticism of the controlling nature of the church.