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David Miscavige

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David Miscavige
David Miscavige - Portrait.jpg
Miscavige in 2011
Born (1960-04-30) April 30, 1960 (age 61)
OccupationChairman of the Board, Religious Technology Center
OrganizationChurch of Scientology
(m. 1982)
RelativesRon Miscavige (father)
Jenna Miscavige Hill (niece)
WebsiteOfficial website

David Miscavige (/mɪˈskævɪ/; born April 30, 1960)[1] is the leader of the Church of Scientology and Captain of the Sea Organization.[2] His official title is Chairman of the Board of the Religious Technology Center (RTC), a corporation that controls the trademarks and copyrights of Dianetics and Scientology. Miscavige was a deputy to Church founder L. Ron Hubbard during his time working as a Commodore's Messenger while he was a teenager.[3] He rose to a leadership position by the early 1980s and was named Chairman of the Board of RTC in 1987, the year after Hubbard's death.[4] Official church biographies describe Miscavige as "the ecclesiastical leader of the Scientology religion".[3][5][6]

Since he assumed his leadership position, there have been a number of allegations made against Miscavige. These include claims of forced separation of family members, coercive fundraising practices, harassment of journalists and church critics, and emotional and physical abuse of subordinates by Miscavige. Miscavige and church spokespersons deny the majority of these claims, often criticizing the credibility of those who bring them.[7][8][9][10][11]

Early life

David Miscavige was born in 1960 in Bristol Township, Bucks County, Pennsylvania,[12] to the Roman Catholic Polish-Italian family of Ronald and Loretta Miscavige.[13] Miscavige and his twin sister, Denise, were raised primarily in Willingboro Township, New Jersey.[6][14]

As a child, Miscavige played baseball and football, but he suffered from asthma and severe allergies.[15] His father, a trumpet player, became interested in Scientology, and he sent the younger Miscavige to see a Scientologist. According to both father and son, a 45-minute Dianetics session cured his ailments.

Miscavige's family joined the Church of Scientology in 1971 and eventually moved to the church's world headquarters in Saint Hill Manor, England.[13] By the age of twelve, Miscavige was conducting Scientology auditing sessions.[6] Saint Hill served as his own training ground as an auditor, and he is remembered by the Church as the "12-year-old prodigy" who became the youngest professional Scientology auditor.[16] The family returned to Philadelphia within a few years, where Miscavige attended Marple Newtown High School.[13]

In 1976, on his sixteenth birthday, Miscavige left high school with his father's permission to move to Clearwater, Florida and joined the Sea Org, a Scientologist organization established in 1968 by Church founder L. Ron Hubbard.[13][17] Some of his earliest jobs in the Sea Org included delivering telexes, groundskeeping, food service and taking photographs for Scientology brochures.[13] Miscavige then joined an elite group of young Scientologists in the Sea Org called the Commodore's Messenger Organization (CMO), which Hubbard had established to carry out his personal errands and deliver executive directives to Scientology management, but as they grew into adolescence, their power and influence within the Sea Org increased.[18][19][20]

Leadership roles in Scientology

L. Ron Hubbard, science fiction author and founder of Scientology, appointed Miscavige as an assistant and groomed him for leadership.

By 1977, Miscavige was living in La Quinta, California and working directly under Hubbard as a cameraman for Scientology training films.[17] Hubbard appointed Miscavige to the CMO, responsible for enforcing Hubbard's policies within the individual Scientology organizations; Miscavige became head of the CMO in 1979.[17] 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.[21] In 1981, Miscavige was placed in charge of the Watchdog Committee and the All Clear Unit, with the task of handling the various legal claims against Hubbard. He also became in charge of Author Services, Inc., an entity to manage Hubbard's literary and financial affairs, which was established in the same year.[22]

Sea Org succession

By age of 19, Miscavige headed the Commodore's Messenger Organization, responsible for sending out teams to investigate church problem areas.[23] In 1987, the year after Hubbard's death, he became the Captain of the Sea Org, which gave him absolute authority over the Sea Org command structure and all Sea Org orgs.[4]

Operation Snow White

After the Guardian's Office's (GO) criminal involvement in Operation Snow White, Miscavige persuaded Mary Sue Hubbard to resign from the GO and purged several top GO officials through ethics proceedings.[24] 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."[13] She subsequently changed her mind, believing that she had been tricked.[25] Despite this, Miscavige claims he and Mary Sue Hubbard remained friends thereafter.[26]

Corporate restructuring

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.[17] He established the Religious Technology Center (RTC), in charge of licensing Scientology's intellectual property, and Author Services Inc. to manage the proceeds.[24] Miscavige has held the title of Chairman of the Board of the RTC since the organization's founding.[3] The Church of Spiritual Technology (CST) was created at the same time with an option to repurchase all of RTC's intellectual property rights.[24] 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 also Chairman of the Board. In the same document, Hubbard called Miscavige a "trusted associate" and "good friend" who had kept his affairs in good order. A judge ruled the statement was authentic.[27] The case was dismissed on June 27, 1983.[26]

In October 1982, Miscavige required Scientology Missions to enter new trademark usage contracts which established stricter policies on the use of Scientology materials.[22][28] Over the two years following the formation of the RTC, Miscavige and his team replaced most of Scientology's upper and middle management.[29] 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.[29][30] The Advanced Ability Center closed in 1984, two years after opening.[29]

When Hubbard died in 1986, Miscavige announced Hubbard's death to Scientologists at the Hollywood Palladium.[31] Shortly before Hubbard died, 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.[32] After Hubbard's death, Miscavige assumed the position of head of the Church of Scientology and, according to the organization, "ecclesiastical leader of the Scientology religion".[33] Miscavige holds the rank of Captain of the Sea Organization, and is its highest-ranking member.[2]

Relationship with the IRS

In 1991, Miscavige, together with Marty Rathbun, visited the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) headquarters in Washington, D.C. 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 also 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."[34]

At the meeting with Commissioner Goldberg, Miscavige offered to cease Scientology's suits against the IRS in exchange for tax exemptions.[34] 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, Scientology 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.[6][34] 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.[34]

To announce the settlement with the IRS, Miscavige gathered a reported 10,000 members of Scientology in the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena, where he delivered a two-and-a-half-hour address and proclaimed, "The war is over!"[6][34] The crowd gave Miscavige an ovation that lasted more than ten minutes.[35]

Current role in Scientology

Miscavige in Amsterdam, 2017

As Chairman of the Board of the RTC, Miscavige works primarily from Scientology's Gold Base near Hemet, California.[17][36][37] Scientologists often refer to him as "DM", or "C.O.B.", for Chairman of the Board.[22][38] 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."[6]

Public image and persona

Miscavige is portrayed within Scientology as "a servant of Hubbard's message, not an agent in his own right".[39] Official Scientology websites describe him as Hubbard's "trusted friend".[40] 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.[35] As the RTC's Chairman of the Board, his primary task is to "preserve, maintain and protect" the Scientology religion.[41]

Church initiatives

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. Another initiative by Miscavige, launched in 2003, is to build new or remodeled churches of Scientology, called "Ideal Orgs",[42] in every major city in the world. Since then, over seventy[43][44] new or remodeled churches have been opened, including facilities in Washington, D.C.,[45] Madrid, New York City, London, Berlin,[46] Mexico City,[47] Rome,[48] Tel Aviv,[49] Atlanta,[50] Miami,[51] and San Diego.[52] In 2012, Miscavige also opened 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."[53] 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".[54]

Flag Building

The Flag Building in Clearwater, Florida is one of Miscavige's flagship projects. The building contains a Sea Org museum and training facilities.

One of the largest projects of Miscavige's career is the Flag Building, originally called the "Super Power Building", which is described as the spiritual headquarters of the Scientology religion.[55] It is the largest of Scientology's properties in Clearwater, Florida. The 377,000 square foot structure[56] is reportedly outfitted with custom-built equipment designed to administer the supposedly perception-enhancing "Super Power Rundown" to high-level Scientologists.[57][58] The building was scheduled for completion in 2003, but underwent ten years of delays and re-designs as Scientology completed two other major construction and restoration projects in the same area ahead of it, the Fort Harrison Hotel and the Oak Cove Hotel.[59] Miscavige inaugurated the Flag Building on November 17, 2013.[60][61]

Scientology Network

Scientology launched the Scientology Network, a DIRECTV broadcast and OTT streaming service on March 12, 2018, with Miscavige introducing its inaugural broadcast in a rare on-camera appearance.[62][63][64][65] The network is produced by Scientology Media Productions in Los Angeles, a facility opened by the Church in May 2016. Addressing the crowd at the SMP opening, Miscavige called the channel, "Our uncorrupted communication line to the billions. Because as the saying goes, if you don't write your own story, someone else will."[66][67][68][69]

Media coverage and criticism

Since Miscavige assumed his leadership role in Scientology, the press has reported accounts alleging illegal and unethical practices by the Church or by Miscavige himself. A 1991 Time magazine cover story on Scientology described Miscavige as "ringleader" of a "hugely profitable global racket that survives by intimidating members and critics in a Mafia-like manner".[5] Miscavige stated in a 1992 interview on Nightline—his only live televised interview to date—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".[70] According to a 1994 article in Regardies magazine by journalist Patrick J. Kiger, Eli Lilly's public relations agency Hill & Knowlton, which is owned by the British advertising conglomerate the WPP Group, was pressured by Eli Lilly to drop Scientology as a client just before the Time article was published.[71] After the Time article, Miscavige stated that, "Eli Lilly ordered a reprint of 750,000 copies of Time magazine before it came out."[70] Scientology filed a suit against Lilly, J. Walter Thompson, Hill & Knowlton and the WPP Group. The case was settled for an undisclosed amount.[72]

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 talked 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".[73]

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 had repeatedly humiliated and physically beaten his staff, and had confined Scientology staff members in degrading conditions in a Church-owned property known as "The Hole".[10][36] The series included interviews with Mike Rinder, former official spokesperson for Scientology and director of the Church's Office of Special Affairs, and Mark Rathbun, the former Inspector General of the RTC. Rinder has said that he was physically assaulted by Miscavige on about fifty occasions.[10] These allegations have been supported by 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 say they have witnessed such attacks.[74] Scientology denies all of these reports.[75]

Similar charges have been reported in previous years.[76] In 1987, the BBC Panorama program Scientology: The Road to Total Freedom? featured an interview with former member Don Larson, who described Miscavige's physical violence towards a staff member.[77] In a 1995 interview for ITV, Stacy Young, Miscavige's former secretary and the ex-wife of Hubbard's former spokesman, Robert Vaughn Young, 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."[78] In an incident also witnessed and supported by Amy Scobee,[79] 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".[80]

"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.[81][82][83][84] The series was cited as a basis for subsequent journalistic investigations, including a weeklong series hosted on CNN by Anderson Cooper.

Scientology response

Scientology representatives have consistently denied such accusations, insisting that the allegations come from apostates motivated by bitterness or attempting to extract money from the Church.[10][75][85][86] Hawkins' claims were responded to by Scientology when he reiterated them in a documentary, saying they were "fabricated" and referring to him as "a discredited anti-Scientology media source".[87] Scientology executive David Bloomberg claimed that it was Hawkins who became belligerent and attacked Miscavige.[79] 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."[88] 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".[8] Scientology also commissioned an independent review of the Times's reporting, but have not, to date, released those findings.[89][90]

Though Miscavige and Scientology have been the subject of much press attention, he has rarely spoken directly to the press. Exceptions include the aforementioned 1992 interview on Nightline,[91] the aforementioned 1998 newspaper interview with the St. Petersburg Times,[73] and a 1998 appearance in an A&E Investigative Reports installment called "Inside Scientology".[92][91]

COVID-19 pandemic

In March 2020, online publications released media coverage that criticized David Miscavige of calling the COVID-19 pandemic “hysteria” and “planetary bullbait.” The coverage purported that “Scientology promoted dangerous 'conspiracy theories' about the pandemic, and that Scientologists endangered public health by not respecting social distancing,” according to Rosita Šorytė, author of the book Scientology and The 2020 Pandemic. She writes that such responses to new religious movements like the Church of Scientology are part of the “paradigm of suspicion” surrounding New Religious Movements, who are limited in interactions with their congregants during such a health crisis. She shows that the media coverage is based on a bulletin by the Church of Scientology dated March 13, 2020. The bulletin mentions the words “hysteria” and “bullbait” but the “document should be read in its entirety,” says Šorytė. The bulletin signed by David Miscavige quoted L. Ron Hubbard as believing in the motto that “an ounce of prevention is worth a ton of cure.” It also detailed the cancellations of the Church's large gatherings and their COVID-19 preventive information dissemination campaign.[93]

An official Church statement and correction aired through The Dr. Oz Show said: “The Church’s approach to the virus is based on science, and the Church took unprecedented steps from the onset of the pandemic to protect its staff and parishioners around the globe. Before ‘stay-at-home’ directives, the Church took forceful preventive actions including prohibiting all mass gatherings in all of our Churches and congregational activities; providing staff and parishioners with educational booklets on why prevention is important and how to carry it out; taking the temperature of all Church staff and anyone entering Church premises; instituting quarantine and isolation protocols, making available masks and gloves by the millions to staff and parishioners internationally.”[94][better source needed]

Personal life


Miscavige is married to fellow Sea Org member Michele Diane "Shelly" Miscavige, who has not been seen in public since August 2007.[95] Multiple sources have alleged she disappeared from Gold Base shortly after she "filled several job vacancies without her husband's permission".[96] In July 2012, responding to press accounts of speculation on Shelly's whereabouts, lawyers who said they represented her informed two UK newspapers that "she is not missing and devotes her time to the work of the Church of Scientology".[97] In 2013, in the Los Angeles Times, Andrew Blankstein reported, based on anonymous sources from the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), that the department had closed their investigation following a missing-persons report filed by former Scientologist and actress Leah Remini, having "located and spoke[n]" to Shelly Miscavige.[98] The LAPD declined to answer questions about the details of the report.[99] Lawrence Wright reports that "former Sea Org members" say Shelly is being held under guard at Gold Base.[74]

Family and relatives

Miscavige's elder brother Ronald Miscavige Jr. served as an executive in the Sea Org for a time,[32] but left Scientology in 2000.[100] Miscavige's twin 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.[101][102] Ronald Jr.'s daughter Jenna Miscavige Hill, niece of David Miscavige, remained in the Sea Org until 2005. She has since become an outspoken critic of Scientology, publishing a book about her experiences 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 her father in Virginia.[103]

In July 2013, Wisconsin police confronted Dwayne S. Powell after a suspicious person report. Powell said he had been hired at $10,000 a week to conduct full-time surveillance on the elder Miscavige for Scientology, which he said he had been doing for over a year. Los Angeles Times reporter Kim Christensen reports that David Miscavige and Scientology denied any connection to Powell. Gary Soter, a Church attorney, stated that the allegations were "blatantly false".[104][105] Powell told police that on one occasion, he witnessed what he believed to be Ronald Sr. undergoing cardiac arrest. According to Powell, after immediately reporting the perceived emergency to his superiors, he received a call for further instructions from a man who identified himself as David Miscavige. According to the police report, Powell was instructed not to intervene in any way. Church spokesperson Karin Pouw asserted in an email that "no such conversation with Mr. Miscavige ever took place."[104][105][106] Ron Miscavige and Dan Koon wrote Ruthless: Scientology, My Son David Miscavige, and Me, which was published in May 2016.[107]

Friendship with Tom Cruise

Miscavige is close to actor Tom Cruise[9] and served as best man at Cruise's wedding to Katie Holmes.[108]


Miscavige is a firearms enthusiast who enjoys skeet shooting.[9] In the 1998 St. Petersburg Times interview he named playing the piano, underwater photography, and trail biking as being among his hobbies.[35]

See also


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Works cited

  • Miscavige, Ron (2016). Ruthless: Scientology, My Son David Miscavige, and Me. United States: St. Martin's Press. ISBN 978-1250096937.

External links

Interviews and press coverage