Director Paul Haggis, who left the Church of Scientology in 2009, has penned an open letter in support of his friend Leah Remini, who also recently severed ties with the organization.
In the letter, published in The Hollywood Reporter, the Crash director writes, "I can't express how much I admire Leah. Her parents, family and close friends were almost all Scientologists; the stakes for her were so much higher than for me. Her decision to leave was so much braver."
Remini, who is a second-generation Scientologist, fell out of favor with the church after challenging the leadership of highest-ranking member David Miscavige and questioning the whereabouts of Miscavige's wife, Shelly, who has not been seen in public since 2005.
Like Remini, Haggis publicly criticized Scientology's policy of having members isolate themselves from their family members and loved ones who are not involved in the church. He describes Remini as "one of two Scientologists who had refused to 'disconnect' from me and certainly the only high-profile one when I decided to quit the organization in August 2009."
Haggis says he learned that Remini was subsequently reprimanded by church officials for keeping in contact with Haggis and defending him to other members.
"The fact that she fought within the system so resolutely for so long, never making her feelings public, is a testament to how much she believed in the basic goodness of her friends and the institution," Haggis writes. "According to what I read, she was turned in by a celebrity friend who had noticed one of our few innocuous tweets."
Haggis says he reached out to Remini in the wake of her announcement. "It was good to hear her voice and great to hear her laugh - though it was easy to tell she had been terribly hurt and shaken by the events of the last weeks," he writes. "That said, Leah is an incredibly strong woman and will get through this with the help of her family and her true friends."