Much of what you’ve read about Scientology is true — at least according to Ron Miscavige, a longtime acolyte and father of David Miscavige, the head of the Church of Scientology. Ruthless: Scientology, My Son David Miscavige, and Me, published yesterday, is simply the latest book to emerge detailing the practices of the highly secretive organization (most recently King of Queens star Leah Remini published her book, Troublemaker). In the 244-page memoir, the elder Miscavige tells bizarre and distressing stories about his 42-year relationship with the organization, beginning with his initial foray to his son’s meteoric rise to power. Amid the stories of abuse, perhaps more eerie is the medical calm cast over the book — maybe a result of Miscavige’s own refusal to let go of the philosophies of the church that gave him life.
He admits to hitting his ex-wife, Loretta.
One of the charges levied against Ron Miscavige is that he regularly beat Loretta, his ex-wife and the mother of his four children, and he doesn’t deny them. Early on in the book, Miscavige writes, “There were times when I punched Loretta. I never slapped or hit her in the face, but, still, sometimes I did strike her. I might punch her in the arm or push her away when she was getting on me. She threw things at me — pots, pans, a pot of boiling coffee once.” He claims that most of their fights were verbal, though, and they fought constantly in front of their children.
He moved his family to England to study Scientology.
Unsurprisingly, Miscavige had his own zeal for Scientology. After making a successful living as a cookware salesman, Miscavige convinced his wife and the rest of his family to move to East Grinstead, England, for 15 months to study Scientology at the institute there. (David was 12 years old.) This meant quitting his job and pulling his kids out of school. In a quickly told story, Ron Miscavige said he first learned of Scientology from someone he did a pyramid scheme with called Holiday Magic; this person told him the method to getting rid of a headache was to conjure an image of yourself looking at a mirror and then “give” the headache to the person in the mirror. Miscavige tried it and it worked, thus leading him to become a convert. David’s own eureka moment would come when his father took him to see a Scientologist to rid him of his asthma, which was successful. (Indeed, this is an origin story David Miscavige has told as “proof” of Scientology’s powers.) At 16, David would ask his parents if he could leave high school to join Sea Org, the sect of the most hard-core devotees where he would begin his relationship with L. Ron Hubbard.
David helped his father out with a rape charge.
When Ron was living in King of Prussia, his son David was 25 and by this time already one of the most powerful people in the church aside from L. Ron Hubbard himself. At the time, a woman had successfully sued the Church of Scientology for fraud and was awarded a $39 million settlement. Around that time, Ron Miscavige was also a suspect in an attempted-rape case. He called his son, and the next day the church’s attorney Michael Hertzberg showed up with a suitcase filled with cash for bail. Eventually, at the first hearing, the woman looked at Miscavige and said she wasn’t sure if he was the man who attempted to rape her, so the case was dismissed.
The conditions at the Gold Base sound disgusting.
Following in his son’s footsteps, Ron also joined Sea Org in 1985. He quickly moved to the Gold Base (home base for the inner circle of staff) to work on the music production team. He describes living there as constant work with no sleep and “substandard food” because at times the allocation for staff dipped to $3 per person per day. All of his mail was read and his phone calls monitored, and an escort followed him to the doctor. He says he arrived to this place of constant surveillance “by tiny increments.” He once got scabies from living there, remembering that his son had “no concern for [him] at all” and was merely worried about getting the parasites himself. Ron also had stress-related eczema that once got so severe he bled on his sheets.
David Miscavige once told his department to spit on a staff member.
Before he rose to the head of the organization, David was the head of ASI (Author Services, Inc.), which would promote L. Ron Hubbard’s literary endeavors as well as handle his income and finances. Ron writes of an instance where a staff member had “fallen out of favor” with David, who commanded everyone in his department to spit on the man. Miscavige writes, “To their credit, everyone but David and one other person refused to spit on the man; David and his accomplice chewed tobacco before their despicable display.”
Their work relationship superseded the familial one.
That Ron was David’s father did not put him above being verbally abused by his son at public events. At a musical event in St. Hill in the early 2000s, David went on a “tirade” in front of a “well-known Italian pop-star” about something that is unclear. “I was totally and utterly mortified by the entire experience,” writes Miscavige. At the end of it, Ron says, “Okay I got it.” And his son replied, “Good. I was waiting to hear that from you. That is why I was going on for the last 55 minutes.” Ron suggests that his son may be a sociopath, writing, “Not all people who have these traits are sociopaths, of course, but because of their ability to seduce others with their charm, they can be tricky to identify. I will leave to you to draw your own conclusions about why I mention Stout’s book [The Sociopath Next Door] in this chapter.”
But David still bought him a house!
After he escaped from the Gold Base, Ron tried to write a letter to his son explaining what happened and why he decided to leave. Instead, the letter was sent back from an associate saying that David hadn’t read it because it was “antagonistic.” Then Ron wrote another letter saying that he was broke because he had joined Sea Org (the workers get paid criminally low amounts). His son answered and gave him $100,000 so he could buy a house.
David Miscavige told private investigators not to intervene if his father was dying.
After Ron Miscavige successfully escaped the Gold camp with his wife Becky, his son had hired private investigators to follow him and dig up dirt on him for more than a year. Eventually, one of them was arrested by local law enforcement and discovered to have a GPS tracking device, a number of license plates, fake driver’s licenses, handguns, rifles, and ammunition in the trunk. Apparently one of David’s orders to them was “If he dies, he dies. Don’t intervene.” It was hearing this news relayed that Ron felt prompted to write this book.
Lisa Marie Presley tried to intervene in their family dispute.
After Ron left the church, his daughters Denise (David’s twin sister) and Lori “disconnected” from him — a process that requires Scientologists to cut off communication with people labeled as “suppressive persons.” Ron Miscavige first met Lisa Marie Presley while they worked on a Scientology cruise. When they reconnected, he told Presley about what was going on, and she apparently tried to intervene. He writes that a few days later church officials then brought Denise out to chew out Lisa Marie. Miscavige writes, “Lisa Marie’s husband told me afterward that watching Denise do her thing was like seeing Dave with a wig on blowing a gasket.”
Ron Miscavige still clings to his belief in Scientology.
Considering Miscavige devoted the majority of his life to reading and practicing Scientology, it’s not hard to believe that he has a problem with letting go of its tenets. Indeed, much of the book analyzes his own son according to the principles of Scientology, demonstrating ways in which his son is a “toxic personality type,” according to an essay by Hubbard. Even when he was plotting to escape the Gold camp, he made sure to take all of his books by L. Ron Hubbard with him. It’s clear that he sees the organization and the church — not Scientology itself — as the problem.