Miscavige in 2011
April 30, 1960 |
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
|Title||Chairman of the Board, Religious Technology Center|
David Miscavige (//; born April 30, 1960) is the leader of the Church of Scientology. His official title is Chairman of the Board of Religious Technology Center (RTC), a corporation that controls the trademarks and copyrights of Dianetics and Scientology.
Miscavige was an assistant to church founder L. Ron Hubbard (a "Commodore's messenger") while a teenager. He rose to a leadership position by the early 1980s and was named Chairman of the Board of RTC in 1987. Official church biographies describe Miscavige as "the ecclesiastical leader of the Scientology religion" and celebrate his accomplishments, including obtaining recognition as a tax-favored charity by the US Internal Revenue Service, issuing restored and corrected editions of the works of L. Ron Hubbard and undertaking a program of new or remodeled churches and related facilities.
Since assuming his leadership position, there have been a number of allegations made against David Miscavige. These include claims of forced separation of family members, coercive fundraising practices, harassment of journalists and church critics, and humiliation of church staff members, including physical assaults upon them by Miscavige. Miscavige and church spokespersons deny the majority of these claims, often criticizing the credibility of those who bring them.
David Miscavige was born in 1960 in Bucks County, Pennsylvania in the Philadelphia area to the Roman Catholic Polish-Italian family of Ronald and Loretta Miscavige, the youngest of their four children. Miscavige was raised in Willingboro Township, New Jersey. As a child, he suffered from asthma and severe allergies. He also played baseball and football. His father, a trumpet player, became interested in Scientology, and he sent Miscavige to see a Scientologist. According to both father and son, a 45-minute Dianetics session cured his ailments.
The family joined Scientology in 1971 and eventually moved to the church's world headquarters in Saint Hill Manor, England. By the age of twelve, he was conducting Scientology auditing sessions. The family returned to Philadelphia within a few years, where Miscavige attended a local high school. On his sixteenth birthday (1976) he left high school with his father's permission to move to Clearwater, Florida, and joined the Sea Org, a Scientologist religious order established in 1968 by L. Ron Hubbard. Some of his earliest jobs in the Sea Org included delivering telexes, grounds-keeping, food service and taking photographs for Scientology brochures. Miscavige then joined a group of young Scientologists called the Commodore's Messenger Organization (CMO). The group started with running Hubbard's errands, but as they grew into adolescence, Hubbard increased their influence.
Leadership in Scientology
In 1977, Miscavige worked directly under L. Ron Hubbard as a cameraman for Scientology training films, in La Quinta, California. Hubbard appointed him to the Commodore's Messenger Organization (CMO), responsible for enforcing Hubbard's policies within the individual Scientology organizations; he became head of the CMO in 1979. By 1980, Hubbard was no longer appearing at public functions related to Scientology, and by some accounts Miscavige took effective control of the organization at this time. In 1981, he was placed in charge of the Watchdog Committee and the All Clear Unit, with the task of handling the various legal claims against Hubbard. After the Guardian's Office's criminal involvement in Operation Snow White, he persuaded Mary Sue Hubbard to resign from the Guardian's Office (GO), and purged several top GO officials through ethics proceedings. The St. Petersburg Times, in a 1998 article "The Man Behind Scientology," says: "During two heated encounters, Miscavige persuaded Mary Sue Hubbard to resign. Together they composed a letter to Scientologists confirming her decision -- all without ever talking to L. Ron Hubbard." She subsequently changed her mind, believing that she had been tricked. Despite this, Miscavige claims he and Mary Sue Hubbard remained friends thereafter.
In 1982, Miscavige set up a new organizational structure to release Hubbard from personal liability and to handle the Scientology founder's personal wealth through a corporate entity outside of the Scientology organization. He established the Religious Technology Center, in charge of licensing Scientology's intellectual property, and Author Services Inc. to manage the proceeds. Miscavige has held the title of Chairman of the Board of the Religious Technology Center since the organization's founding. The Church of Spiritual Technology was created at the same time with an option to repurchase all of RTC's intellectual property rights. In a 1982 probate case, Ronald DeWolf, Hubbard's estranged son, accused Miscavige of embezzling from and manipulating his father. Hubbard denied this in a written statement, saying that his business affairs were being well managed by Author Services Inc., of which Miscavige was the Chairman of the Board. In the same document L. Ron Hubbard called David Miscavige a "trusted associate" and "good friend" who had kept Hubbard's affairs in good order. A judge ruled the statement was authentic. The case was dismissed on June 27, 1983.
In October 1982, Miscavige required Scientology Missions to enter new trademark usage contracts which established stricter policies on the use of Scientology materials. Over the two years following the formation of the RTC, Miscavige and his RTC team replaced most of Scientology's upper and middle management. A number of those ousted attempted to establish breakaway organizations, such as the Advanced Ability Center led by David Mayo, a former RTC board member who had also been Hubbard's personal auditor. The Advanced Ability Center closed in 1984, two years after opening.
When L. Ron Hubbard died in 1986, Miscavige announced the death to Scientologists at the Hollywood Palladium. Shortly before Hubbard's death, an apparent order from him circulated in the Sea Org that promoted Scientologist Pat Broeker and his wife to the new rank of Loyal Officer, making them the highest-ranking members; Miscavige asserted this order had been forged. After Hubbard's death, Miscavige assumed the position of head of the Scientology organization.
Negotiations with IRS
In 1991 Miscavige, together with Marty Rathbun, visited IRS headquarters to arrange a meeting with Commissioner Fred T. Goldberg, Jr.. For more than two decades, the IRS had refused to recognize Scientology as a nonprofit charitable organization, a status granted to most established religious organizations. Prior to this meeting, Scientology had filed more than fifty lawsuits against the IRS and, according to the New York Times, "Scientology's lawyers hired private investigators to dig into the private lives of IRS officials and to conduct surveillance operations to uncover potential vulnerabilities... [and] taken documents from an I.R.S. conference and sent them to church officials and created a phony news bureau in Washington to gather information on church critics. The church also financed an organization of I.R.S. whistle-blowers that attacked the agency publicly." At the meeting with Commissioner Goldberg, Miscavige offered to cease Scientology's suits against the IRS in exchange for tax exemptions. This led to a two-year negotiating process, in which IRS tax analysts were ordered to ignore the substantive issues because the issues had been resolved prior to review. Ultimately, the church was granted recognition as a nonprofit religious or charitable organization in the U.S., which creates a tax exemption for the Church of Scientology International and its organizations, and tax deductions for those who contribute to their programs. Senior Scientology officials and the IRS later issued a statement that the ruling was based on a two-year inquiry and voluminous documents that showed the church was qualified for the exemptions.
To announce the settlement with the IRS, Miscavige gathered a reported 10,000 members of Scientology in the Los Angeles Sports Arena, where he delivered a two-and-a-half-hour address and proclaimed, "The war is over!" The crowd gave Miscavige an ovation that lasted more than ten minutes.
Current role in Scientology
As Chairman of the Board of the Religious Technology Center, David Miscavige works primarily from Scientology's Gold Base near Hemet, California. Scientologists often refer to him as "DM", or "C.O.B.", for chairman of the board. In their 2007 book, Extraordinary Groups: An Examination of Unconventional Lifestyles, W. W. Zellner and Richard T. Schaefer noted that "David Miscavige has been the driving force behind the Church of Scientology for the past two decades" and that "Miscavige's biography and speeches are second only to Hubbard in dominating the official Scientology Web site. [...] He is acknowledged as the ultimate ecclesiastical authority regarding the standard and pure application of L. Ron Hubbard's religious theories."
Miscavige is portrayed within Scientology as "a servant of Hubbard's message, not an agent in his own right." Miscavige uses church publications as well as professionally produced videos of gala events, at which he acts as master of ceremonies, to communicate with Scientologists worldwide. As the Religious Technology Center's Chairman of the Board, his primary task is to "preserve, maintain and protect" the Scientology religion.
Among Miscavige's initiatives is a long-term project of issuing unreleased and corrected editions of Hubbard's books and restoring L. Ron Hubbard lectures, including translating many works into other languages.
Miscavige initiated a strategy in 2003 to build new or revamped Churches of Scientology, called "Ideal Orgs", in every major city in the world. Since then, thirty-eight new or remodeled Churches have been opened including facilities in Madrid, New York, London, Berlin, Mexico City, Rome, Washington, DC, Tel Aviv, and Kaohsiung, Taiwan. In 2012, David Miscavige also opened the Church of Scientology's "National Affairs Office" in Washington D.C., which he declared to be "An office designed to give back to a United States government that steadfastly guaranteed our religious rights, the very freedom that allows us to do what we are doing today." The Church of Scientology says the National Affairs Office was built "to oversee programs around the country and the world dealing with human rights, drug addiction, literacy and disaster response."
One of the largest projects of Miscavige's career is the Flag Building, also called the "Super Power Building", which is described as the spiritual headquarters for the Scientology religion. It is the largest of Scientology's properties in Clearwater, Florida. The 377,000 square foot structure is reportedly outfitted with custom-built equipment designed to administer the perception-enhancing "Super Power Rundown" to high-level Scientologists. The building was scheduled for completion in 2003, but underwent ten years of delays and re-designs as the Church completed two other major construction and restoration projects in the same area ahead of it, the Fort Harrison Hotel and the Oak Cove Hotel. Miscavige inaugurated the Flag Building on November 17, 2013.
Media coverage and criticism
Since assuming his leadership role, Miscavige has been faced with press accounts regarding alleged illegal and unethical practices of the Church of Scientology or by Miscavige himself. A 1991 Time magazine cover story on the church described Miscavige as "ringleader" of a "hugely profitable global racket that survives by intimidating members and critics in a Mafia-like manner." Miscavige stated on Nightline that the publication of the article resulted from a request by Eli Lilly, because of "the damage we had caused to their killer drug Prozac." According to a 1994 article in Regardies magazine by journalist Patrick J. Kiger, Eli Lilly's advertising agency Hill & Knowlton, who is owned by the British conglomerate The WPP Group, was pressured by Eli Lilly to drop the Church of Scientology as a client just before the Time article was published. After the publication of the Time article, Miscavige stated that "Eli Lilly ordered a reprint of 750,000 copies of Time magazine before it came out." The Church filed a suit against Lilly, J. Walter Thomspon, Hill and Knowlton and both agencies' parent group, WPP. The case was settled for an undisclosed amount.
In 1998, the St Petersburg Times published "The man behind Scientology", a story based on six hours of interviews with Miscavige. In this first-ever newspaper interview, Miscavige talks about his rise to leadership, creating peace and resolving conflicts, and Scientology in Clearwater. The reporters, Tom Tobin and Joe Childs, said of Miscavige that he was "not only the founder's protege and trusted aide, he is to Scientologists what the pope is to Catholics – a leader who sets the tone, establishes goals and ensures that Hubbard's practices and teachings are followed with precision."
Tobin and Childs have continued to report on Miscavige in subsequent years. In 2009, the St. Petersburg Times published a series titled "The Truth Rundown," which featured allegations by former high-ranking executives of Scientology that Miscavige routinely humiliates and physically beats his staff, and holds many members of top strata of the organization in confinement in degrading conditions in a group of double-wide trailers on the Scientology "Gold Base" property in Hemet, known as "The Hole."  The series included testimony from Mike Rinder, former director of the organization's Office of Special Affairs who for years had been the official spokesperson for Scientology, and Mark Rathbun, the former Inspector General of the Religious Technology Center. Rinder attests that he was physically assaulted by Miscavige on about 50 occasions. According to Rathbun, Miscavige is "constantly denigrating and beating on people." These allegations have been supported by many other former Scientologists: Lawrence Wright, author of Going Clear, interviewed twelve individuals who reported having been personally attacked by Miscavige and twenty-one people who witnessed such attacks firsthand. The Church of Scientology denies all of these reports.
Similar charges have been reported in previous years. In a 1995 interview for ITV, Stacy Young, Miscavige's former secretary and the ex-wife of Hubbard's former public relations spokesman, Robert Vaughn Young, had previously asserted that Miscavige emotionally tormented staff members on a regular basis. "His viciousness and his cruelty to staff was unlike anything that I had ever experienced in my life," she said. "He just loved to degrade the staff." In an incident also witnessed and supported by Amy Scobee, Jeff Hawkins, a former marketing guru for Scientology, claimed to have attended a meeting where Miscavige "jumped up on the conference room table, like with his feet right on the conference room table, launched himself across the table at me -- I was standing -- battered my face, and then shoved me down on the floor." Church executive David Bloomberg confirmed that there was a physical confrontation during the meeting but stated that it was Hawkins who became belligerent and attacked Miscavige. In the confrontation Hawkins fell out of his chair and ended up putting a scissor lock on Miscavige's legs. Bloomberg stated "Mr. Miscavige did not touch Jeff Hawkins."
Church representatives have consistently denied such accusations, insisting that the allegations come from apostates motivated by bitterness or attempting to extract money from the church. An issue of the church's "Freedom" magazine was dedicated to praising Miscavige and attacking the "Truth Rundown" series, featuring articles titled "Merchants of Chaos: Journalistic Double-dealing at the St. Petersburg Times" and "The Bigotry Behind the Times’ Facade of Responsible Journalism." Miscavige sent an open letter to the newspaper challenging the integrity of the reporters and labeling their sources as "lying" after the persons in question had been removed from the organization for "fundamental crimes against the Scientology religion." The church also commissioned an independent review of the St. Petersburg Times's reporting, but have not, to date, released those findings.
"Inside Scientology: The Truth Rundown" was recognized with journalistic honors, including the 2010 Gold Medal for Public Service award from the Florida Society of News Editors. The series was cited as a basis for subsequent journalistic investigations, including a weeklong series hosted on the CNN network by Anderson Cooper.
Though he and the Scientology organization have been the subject of much press attention, Miscavige has rarely spoken directly to the press. Exceptions include a televised 1992 interview by Ted Koppel of ABC News, a 1998 newspaper interview with the St. Petersburg Times, and a 1998 appearance in an A&E Investigative Reports installment called "Inside Scientology." When asked by Koppel about Scientology, Miscavige commented, "What we are trying to do in Scientology is take somebody from this higher level and move them up to a greater ability...Scientology is there to help the able become more able.”
Family and personal life
Miscavige is married to fellow Sea Org member Michele Diane "Shelly" Miscavige, who has not been seen in public since August 2007. Multiple sources have alleged that she disappeared from Gold Base shortly after she "filled several job vacancies without her husband's permission". Author Lawrence Wright reports that "former Sea Org members say she is being guarded at a church facility on Gilman Springs Road in San Jacinto, California.". In July 2012, responding to press accounts of speculation on Shelly Miscavige's whereabouts, two UK newspapers were informed by lawyers, indicating they represented Mrs. Miscavige, "that she is not missing and devotes her time to the work of the Church of Scientology." Similarly, in August 2013, the Los Angeles Police Department met with Shelly Miscavige in person following a missing-persons report filed by actress Leah Remini. The LAPD declined to answer questions about the details of the report.
David Miscavige's older brother Ronald Miscavige, Jr. served as an executive in the Sea Org for a time, but left the Church of Scientology in 2000. His sister, Denise Licciardi, was hired by major Scientology donor Bryan Zwan as a top executive for the Clearwater, Florida-based company Digital Lightwave, where she was linked to an accounting scandal. Ronald's daughter Jenna Miscavige Hill, niece of David Miscavige, remained in the Sea Org until 2005. She has since become an outspoken critic of the Scientology organization, publishing a book about her experience of Scientology in 2013. In the book, titled Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology And My Harrowing Escape, she stated that her grandfather Ronald Miscavige Sr. left the church in 2012 and is living with Ronald Jr. in Virginia.
Miscavige is a firearms enthusiast who enjoys skeet shooting. In the 1998 St. Petersburg Times interview he named playing the piano, underwater photography, and trail biking as being among his hobbies. He has been back to his birthplace, near Philadelphia, sporadically since moving away in 1976.
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- Church of Scientology David Miscavige Page.
- Religious Technology Center, Official biography of Miscavige.
- "Interview with Scientology Leader". A 1992 televised interview with David Miscavige in Nightline.
- "The Man Behind Scientology". A 1998 interview with David Miscavige in the St. Petersburg Times.
- "The Truth Rundown." Investigative reports and interviews about Scientology, largely focused on Miscavige, St. Petersburg Times, June–August 2009.