Handsome and charismatic, David Miscavige, who heads the Church of Scientology, seems like the perfect face for an organization that promises followers an end to neurosis and the realization of the perfect self. But not everyone is a fan, including his own father, 81-year-old Ron Miscavige, who moved to West Allis after fleeing Scientology’s international headquarters in San Jacinto, California, in 2012. He released a tell-all book called Ruthless in 2016 and told the magazine more of his stories on a windy afternoon.
You introduced David to Scientology when he was a kid. Why?
David suffered from severe asthma. When he was 9, [a Scientologist] I knew offered to take him into session. I had tried everything else to help him, so I gave it a shot. He comes out after 45 minutes smiling, and he’s like “I’m handled, Dad!” He never had a severe asthma attack again as a kid.
That must have left quite an impression.
For both of us! I knew I had to get involved in Scientology, and for David it was an epiphany.
What was your own path like, within the church?
At first, in the 1970s, I was a public Scientologist out in life with a job – I had four kids to feed. I joined the Sea Organization [Scientology’s most devoted group] in 1985, and I believed I was salvaging humanity. An end to insanity, no more wars. Once you are on staff you don’t have an outside job. Food, shelter, clothing is all given to you along with a weekly stipend: $30 a week when I joined.
Where was David by then?
He was on his way to being in charge. Even as a teenager David knew how to maneuver himself. He’s very smart. It got to the point where all information to and from L. Ron Hubbard [Scientology’s founder] went through David. From then on he called me Ron, and I called him sir.
How did he take over?
When Hubbard died in 1986, David saw the opportunity. Hubbard didn’t pick him, as people assume. Once David was in charge, everything changed. Like Jekyll to Hyde.
There was so much greed. So much lust for money. All this stuff with the celebrities. David demands absolute control. If you don’t do what he says you’ll have 300 people jumping on you.
Absolutely! Lots of it, but not just that. When I joined the Sea Org, I signed a billion-year contract, but I didn’t sign anything agreeing to be locked in a compound, having my mail read, not allowed to make a phone call, not being able to go to the store, no internet. The treatment got worse and worse. David is a dictator. It was not a good life.
And so you left?
I didn’t leave. I escaped. I planned for six months, packed my car with everything we owned and sped past the gate guards on March 25, 2012. They are usually ready with a chase car, but it was Sunday morning, and I saw the car parked at the mess hall. Before they could do anything, we were gone.
Where did you go?
My wife’s family lives in Whitewater. We lived there for a while before moving to West Allis.
Has the church left you alone?
West Allis police arrested a man who had been snooping around my neighborhood. In his van they found several license plates, handguns, cell blockers, cameras, a stun gun, rifles, ammunition and a silencer. The guy admitted he had been hired by David to dig up dirt on me and had been following me for a year and a half. They had a tracker on my car. At one point, he thought I was having a heart attack. He called David to ask what to do. David told them to let me die. ◆
Editor’s Note: After the publication of “Why the Father of Scientology Leader David Miscavige is Now Hanging Out in West Allis,” a representative of the Church of Scientology contacted the magazine repeatedly, requesting that we post the Church’s response to the article. We finally acquiesced. Here is an edited version of the Church’s statement:
The Church of Scientology stated Ron Miscavige is seeking to make money on the name of his famous son by spreading lies. David Miscavige has taken care of his father throughout his life, both financially and by helping him in even the direst of circumstances. Any father exploiting his son in this manner is a sad exercise in betrayal. Mr. David Miscavige’s far-reaching vision and unrelenting dedication has brought the Church of Scientology to where it is today, guaranteeing its future for generations to come. For more information please visit www.Scientology.org.