Fathers don't usually write tell-all books about their sons. But Ron and David Miscavige are anything but ordinary.
Ron Miscavige, the father of Scientology leader David Miscavige, has issued a blistering indictment of the church he introduced his family to more than 45 years ago, describing his son as a tyrant who has turned the organization into a destructive influence.
In a memoir released earlier this month, Ron Miscavige writes that David Miscavige "still possesses the energy and intelligence that I saw in him as a child. But while he employed those traits in his youth to get excellent grades in school or to become good at hitting a baseball, today he sits atop a multibillion-dollar church that is controversial, litigious, secretive, manipulative, coercive and, in my mind, evil."
The elder Miscavige, 80 — who now lives in Milwaukee — also said that the church has "morphed into an immoral organization that hides a long list of abuses behind First Amendment protections," spends millions to investigate and harass its critics, and has destroyed families — including his own — through its practice of "disconnection."
Titled "Ruthless: Scientology, My Son David Miscavige and Me," the book depicts the young Miscavige growing up outside Philadelphia in the 1960s and '70s. It follows an earnest David leaving home at 16 to join Scientology's clergy, the Sea Org. It details the father's own 27-year career as member of Scientology's staff and the years of hardship and hand-wringing that preceded his 2012 escape from the church's desert base near Los Angeles.
Ron Miscavige recounts many fond memories of his time in Scientology, often taking time to explain the theories of church founder L. Ron Hubbard. While he recalls good times and loving moments with his son, who is now 56, the prevailing theme is that a church he once saw as a force for good has gone off the rails under the leadership of his own flesh and blood.
In interviews to publicize the book, he said he decided to write the memoir when daughters Denise and Lori, also Scientologists, stopped speaking to him. He blames it all on Scientology's unofficial policy of "disconnection," which compels members to cut ties with critics and former members, even if they're family.
"I don't know if my daughters or David would ever talk to me again," he said.
In the beginning, enthusiasm
In the book, Ron Miscavige recounts how he found Scientology in the late 1960s, how his wife and four kids became interested as well, and how they jumped in with gusto, traveling twice to England for extended stays at the church's Saint Hill Manor in East Grinstead. Young David became especially interested, Ron Miscavige writes, after Scientology counseling mitigated his distressing bouts with asthma.
In the years after 2000, restrictions and punishments at the desert compound near Los Angeles became more severe, and staff began to wither under hard work, sleep deprivation and tongue-lashings.
By 2006, Ron Miscavige said he didn't want to spend the rest of his life this way and began thinking seriously about leaving. It would take five more years to finally take the plunge.
On March 25, 2012, he and his wife discreetly loaded what belongings they had left and drove toward the gate. "Had we been caught, Becky and I would have been locked up in a remote part of the base under 24-hour guard, and I would have spent the rest of my life like that," Ron Miscavige writes. "I never would have gotten out. Never."
To the couple's surprise, the guard opened the gate without incident and they sped away.
"We made it," Ron Miscavige writes. "We were free."
The Church of Scientology has created a website (ronmiscavigebook.com) in response. It said, "Ronald Miscavige is seeking to make money on the name of his famous son. … Scientologists worldwide love and respect Mr. David Miscavige for his tireless work on behalf of their religion."
The website elaborates on the elder Miscavige's admitted domestic violence against his first wife, Loretta, who died in 2005. The church also claims he beat his daughters — something he denies.
The Philadelphia Inquirer contributed to this report.