This week's issue of The New Yorker contains an epic profile of writer-director Paul Haggis ("Crash," "In the Valley of Elah"). Haggis spent 35 years as a Scientologist, but left the church in August 2009.
Journalist Lawrence Wright -- who's also writing book about Scientology -- gained unprecedented insight to the church's inner workings, thanks to dogged research and Haggis' cooperation. Surge Desk breaks down some of his most noteworthy findings.
1. An undercurrent of homophobia
Haggis, who has two gay daughters, says he was moved to leave the church after one of its employees at a San Diego chapter signed the church's name to a petition supporting Proposition 8, which denied gay and lesbian couples the right to legally wed. When Haggis asked church leaders to renounce this action, and to make a statement against Proposition 8, they refused, saying the church did not want to take official political stands and that the petition was signed by an individual acting alone.
But Haggis says his daughter Katy was ostracized by Scientologists when she told them she was a lesbian. A church spokesman told Wright that any homophobic references in Scientology texts were not the work of church founder L. Ron Hubbard but accidental inclusions added by others; he also said that such additions had been removed from current versions of the texts. However, Wright examined recent copies of Scientology's most famous work, "Dianetics," and saw that the definition of "sexual pervert" included homosexuals and lesbians.
2. Forced "disconnection" from those who leave the faith
Haggis' second wife, Deborah Rennard, went through a protracted battle with Scientology because it ordered her to "disconnect" from her parents, who had resigned from the church.
3. A high price for spiritualism
Spiritual advancement in Scientology requires special courses and auditing, none of which comes free. Haggis told Wright that he spent more than $100,000 on Scientology coursework, and Rennard spent about $150,000. On top of that, the church regularly taps its members for donations, and Haggis contributed nearly $300,000.
4. The L. Ron Hubbard movie that never happened
In the early 1980s Scientology's reclusive founder wrote a treatment for a movie called "Influencing the Planet." Haggis and another Scientologist were contacted by the church and asked to turn the treatment into a script that would detail Hubbard's ideas about fixing civilization. Haggis told Wright that the draft script he wrote was "quite dreadful," and although Hubbard provided notes and feedback, the film was never made. Hubbard died in 1986.
5. Allegations of abuse and forced labor
The Church of Scientology has faced accusations of abuse in the past, and Wright's article offers fresh allegations. One former church member described being beaten by David Miscavige, one of the church's leaders. Others described the "punitive re-education camps" established for church members who "fail to fulfill their ecclesiastical responsibilities." People who were sent to these "Rehabilitation Project Force" facilities said they were heavily guarded camps where people were not allowed to leave and had to perform manual labor as well as spiritual education.
As AOL News reported yesterday, the church has denied these and other allegations in Wright's story.
For another peek into the world of Scientology, we also recommend the following video featuring one of the religion's most enthusiastic proselytizers, Tom Cruise:
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