EXCLUSIVE -- Paul Haggis On Scientology's Crude Retaliation: "They Are Bullying A Woman Who Has Yet To Even Speak"

The Voice received an e-mail this morning from Oscar-winning director Paul Haggis after we asked him about the Church of Scientology's attack on him and Nazanin Boniadi which appeared on Us Weekly's website yesterday.

Over the weekend, Haggis spoke up to defend Boniadi -- who acted in his movie The Next Three Days -- when she turned out to be the subject of this month's Vanity Fair in a story about her being one of several women who were "auditioned" in 2004 by Scientology to become the next girlfriend for Tom Cruise. According to a teaser of that story published on Vanity Fair's website Saturday, Boniadi dated Cruise for about three months before she somehow displeased both Cruise and the church's leader, David Miscavige. As a result, she was punished with cleaning toilets with a toothbrush and other indignities.

Haggis spoke up in a statement to journalist Roger Friedman which appeared on Sunday, saying "I'm appalled that any church would treat its parishioners this way."

Scientology struck back yesterday, with an official statement that was delivered by an unnamed spokesperson -- whose identity was hidden by Us Weekly, a decision we questioned earlier -- accusing Haggis of being in a relationship at some point with Boniadi.

Read Haggis's response to that accusation after the jump...

Here's what Haggis sent us, written, he tells us, "in the passenger seat in a scout van in Naples"...

Thanks for your note regarding Scientology's statement. I have a movie to make and truly don't want to be pulled into this mud pile.

As I have been told, my previous statement has been construed as collaborating Vanity Fair's story. Like everyone else, I have not even read their story.

I was not present when any of the things they describe in their "teaser" took place and have claimed no special knowledge of them. I am simply coming to the defense of a woman who has been publicly called a liar.

When I was told her story three years ago, I found it very disturbing -- especially how she was punished and silenced. I thought it very credible. Perhaps it's just me, but I have never found Scientology's blanket denials equally credible.

l know Naz to be a woman of principle and commitment to the service of others, as should be obvious by her work with Amnesty International, and I have been proud to stand with her and other friends in more than one demonstration against injustice and tyranny, and in support of people wrongly imprisoned and cruelly treated.

I did not see a representative from the Church of Scientology at any of those demonstrations. I will let people make up their own minds as who they find credible and who they don't. Me, I know where I stand. But it is my understanding that Naz is the subject of this article, not the source of it. Scientology has a long and well-documented history of attempting to bully its critics into silence. Here they are bullying a woman who has yet to even speak. I guess I just don't like bullies.

Paul Haggis and Nazanin Boniadi at a 2011 Amnesty International demonstration in New York City. [Credit: Diane Bondareff/Insider Images for Amnesty International]
Paul Haggis and Nazanin Boniadi at a 2011 Amnesty International demonstration in New York City. [Credit: Diane Bondareff/Insider Images for Amnesty International]

Haggis and Boniadi were both members of the Church of Scientology and left it at about the same time. Haggis went on to talk to Lawrence Wright of the New Yorker for a major story that appeared in that magazine last year. Boniadi has not yet spoken publicly about her time in the church, even though she is the subject of this week's Vanity Fair cover story.

UPDATE: Ashley Lutz at Business Insider has what she calls the most interesting parts of Maureen Orth's cover story in this month's Vanity Fair. Some of them are items that we've written about here previously at the Voice.

-- "Scientology claims eight million people around the world practice the religion. Orth says the number could be as low as 40,000." That's the same conclusion we came to.

-- "When Cruise was married to Kidman, he 'drifted away' from the church, Marty Rathbun, a former member, told Orth. The organization still had a staff that tracked the couple," Lutz writes. In January, we first broke the story about how Scientology spied on the Cruise household with the use of Cruise's personal assistant.

-- "Cruise and Holmes were reportedly happy in the beginning of their relationship." We think Orth got this from John Brousseau, who told us the same thing in our lengthy story about him.

Lutz lists other very interesting details from Orth's story. Can't wait to find a copy for myself.

And now I have. Go here to read our notes on Orth's story.

See also: "Tom Cruise worships David Miscavige like a god" Scientology's president and the death of his son: our complete coverage What Katie is saving Suri from: Scientology interrogation of kids Scientology's new defections: Hubbard's granddaughter and Miscavige's dad Scientology's disgrace: our open letter to Tom Cruise Scientology crumbling: An entire mission defects as a group Scientology leader David Miscavige's vanished wife: Where's Shelly? Neil Gaiman, 7, Interviewed About Scientology by the BBC in 1968 The Master Screenplay: Scientology History from Several Different Eras And a post that pulls together the best of our Scientology reporting

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********** Tony Ortega has been the editor in chief of the Village Voice since March, 2007. He started writing about Scientology in 1995. You can reach him by e-mail at, and if you ask nicely he'll put you on his mailing list for notifications of new stories. You can also catch his alerts at Twitter (@VoiceTonyO), at his Facebook author page, on Pinterest, a Tumblr, and even this new Google Plus doohickey.

New readers might want to check out our primer, "What is Scientology?" Another good overview is our series from last summer, "Top 25 People Crippling Scientology." At the top of every story, you'll see the "Scientology" category which, if you click on it, will bring up all of our most recent stories.

As for hot subjects we've covered here, you may have heard about Debbie Cook, the former church official who rebelled and was sued by Scientology. You might have also heard about the Super Power Building, Scientology's "Mecca," whose secrets were revealed here. We also reported how Scientology spied on its own most precious object, Tom Cruise. (We wrote Tom an open letter that he has yet to respond to.) Have you seen a Scientology ad on TV lately? We debunked some of the claims in that 2-minute commercial you might have seen while watching Glee or American Idol.

Other stories have looked at Scientology's policy of "disconnection" that is tearing families apart. You may also have heard something about the Sea Org experiences of the Paris sisters, Valeska and Melissa, and their friend Ramana Dienes-Browning. We've also featured Paulette Cooper, who wrote about Scientology back in the day, and Janet Reitman, Hugh Urban, and the team at the Tampa Bay Times, who write about it today. And there's plenty more coming.

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