Riese’s Team Pick: Paul Haggis vs. The Church of Scientology

The first rule of media club is don’t talk about Scientologists. It’s just not worth it. They’ll sue you or slash your tires or something. Everyone is so sensitive, in any event, especially about the gay thing. So people try to stay away from it. Especially people like The New Yorker, because they are a very Serious publication. But there have been cracks in the Scientologist’s Media Control lately — a leaked Tom Cruise tape on Gawker, an Anonymous 4chan-esque hack, a few small articles here and there, heightened interest on John Travolta’s reasons to be involved with the church, a BBC documentary — and a major exposè in 2009 in the St. Petersburg Times.

This New Yorker article I’m telling you to read is still a pretty big deal. I mean I’m semi-obsessed with culty things like Scientology, and there was stuff even I didn’t know in this thing.

In Paul Haggis v. The Church of Scientology, The New Yorker tells the story of Paul Haggis! obvs, a screenwriter who renounced his membership to the Church due to a number of factors but most prevalently/immediately, their support of Prop 8 and refusal to take a stand in favor of gay rights. Also, Haggis has two gay daughters.

This is the longest article I’ve read on Scientology since a RADAR magazine article about five years back that got everyone in big trouble.

It’s a really fascinating piece — Haggis has such hindsight now and he asks the questions we ask when we look at the religion from our vantage point. He’s lucid and self-reflective. But more importantly, this article breaks alllll this stuff down for you like the history and the lawsuits and the allegations of abuse and some crazy shit about Tom Cruise.

Riese is the 38-year-old Co-Founder and CEO of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, blogger, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker, low-key Jewish power lesbian and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and then headed West. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image & Other Hazards Of Being Female," magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 2842 articles for us.


  1. I give you odds on Haggis against Scientology, 7-2, based on past performance. Granted the cult has lawyers and two big movie stars. Haggis has truth and just as importantly, he seems to be telling the truth. What motive does he has to lie. The Scientology apologists are the internet can’t come up with anything beyond him having his knickers in a knot after a bad film.

    Scientology used to have a lot of people, also known as suckers, spending their money on services. Now, as the article pointed out near the end, there are only about 25,000 of them left in the USA. Guys like Haggis have been putting the nails in the coffin since the internet was invented.

    The cult lived through an investigation which saw leader L.Ron in hiding and his wife go to jail. Miscavige in jail could shatter the shell that is left, like a sheet of glass.

  2. When I was younger I didnt know what Scientology was and I’d been hearing a lot about it, so I asked my brother what they believe and he told me ” whoever pays the most is who g-d loves the most” I’ve just gone with that ever since

  3. Man I enjoyed this article like I enjoy all accounts about Scientology – which is really THE Voldemort of modern day religions/cults. But man did my instant affection for Haggis dim slightly when I found out he was responsible for Crash.

  4. That prime communicator who was an Operating Thetan VII has been 1.1 with some out ethics since a few S.P.s got a hold of him. With a few intensives and some Contact Assist, he will once again know ARC and go Clear. Earlier similars on the E-Meter will be no problem, all engrams and entheta will disappear, and it will be time for Purification Rundown. K.S.W. All on Teegeeack will be well, now that Xenu is gone.

  5. Man, I’ve been waiting for this issue of the NYer to get in my mailbox all week. I know I can read it online, but I really want to read it in the bathtub and get super creeped out. (Also, the Tina Fey article in it that sounds boss. Why is the online version ahead of the print version???)

  6. It’s just mind-boggling. I always knew that Scientology had its own particular brand of crazy it was selling, but that stuff about the sea org, confinement, and human trafficking is just shocking. How can an organization this big be operating like that without law enforcement coming down on them like a ton of bricks?

  7. Well, at least I’m not the only one who can’t tear himself away from information about cults and Scientology.

    I didn’t read all of the legal documents that someone posted a link to, but in the United States, a 16-year old, being a minor, cannot enter into a binding agreement as Claire Headley did with her Sea Organization contract.

    And a “billion years?” Whoever dreamed that up for Scientology had to be trying to pull off some kind of joke and the higher ups in Scientology either went along with it or were too stupid to realize the impossibility of performance that should have made such a contract unenforceable to begin with.

    Seriously, there is so much stuff in Scientology that is completely ludicrous and ridiculous, how does any rational human being not only pass on joining up, but not laugh their ass off at this stuff when they see it?

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