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Paul Haggis’ lawyers are bringing Scientology back to trial

Scientology returned to the spotlight Monday in Paul Haggis’ civil rape trial. Her appearance in the conversation comes as a surprise as both sides seem to agree last week that there is “no evidence” to suggest that the person suing the Oscar-winning director for rape is linked to the controversial church.

Haggis’ defense attorneys have called in former Scientologist Shauna Brakfield, who testified via video link to a jury Monday in a Manhattan courtroom. “Anyone who speaks out against the church is just a target for destruction,” she said. “I’ve seen it happen.”

Haley Priest — the former movie publicist who is suing Haggis over allegations that the director forced her to have oral sex with him and then raped her in his Soho apartment in 2013 after a movie premiere — maintains that she has nothing to do with the Church of Scientology. But Haggis’ defense team has repeatedly argued that the charge of raping Priest was in retaliation for Haggis’ decision to leave and then publicly criticize the Church of Scientology.

Brackfield, an Emmy-winning documentary producer, testified that she was still a parishioner at the Church of Scientology when Haggis left the organization in October 2009. She remembers receiving a call at the time from Tom Davis, the principal spokesperson and chief of foreign affairs, who asked her for a job. Copies of complaints or any negative comments about Haggis.

She testified to the jury: “It was clear to me that he was not seeking praise and supporting material.” “Obviously he wanted some kind of dirt.”

Brackfield said she did not comply with Davis’ request, but found the orders “significant” because it was the first time he had called to request information on someone.

“It was a very scary phone call for me,” she recalls. “As a member of the Church, I felt that you would be expected to be very loyal to the group and protect the group at all costs. My lack of participation in it may have repercussions on me as a parishioner.”

Brakfield has spoken out about defamatory actions the church has allegedly taken to silence its enemies, which ranged from personal attacks to hate postings. She claims she “doesn’t know for sure” if the Church of Scientology was behind the Priest case. But she said, “When the news broke about this issue, it swept away again for me. My first thought was that the church was behind it. It had nothing to do with who Paul was.”

After the jury was dismissed for the day, attorney Ilan Mazel said diverse That Davis’ story is a “big ironic distraction,” one that has nothing to do with the larger issue.

Alyssa Haggis, daughter of film director Crash and the Million Dollar Baby, testified Monday afternoon and outlined her “overall” experience growing up in the Church of Scientology. “It’s all about the church,” she said.

She left church when she was 18 because she realized she was gay. Paul Haggis broke up with Scientology after 30 years of her opposition to same-sex marriage.

“I knew Scientology was very homophobic. I didn’t want to deal with this much,” she said. “I did it very quietly because the rest of my family was still there at the time.”

Mazel asked Alisa Haggis directly about the evidence of Brest’s association with the Church, and she said to her: “No, of course not.”

Alyssa Haggis worked briefly in Hollywood, writing screenplays for Disney and other companies, but believes she has not had a job in the entertainment industry since Brest’s allegations because of her last name.

“I don’t have a lot of jobs right now,” she said. “Hollywood won’t hire me because I have the family name Haggis.”

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