The Church of Scientology’s Miscavige clan is the family that preys together — and apart.
David Miscavige, chairman of the board of controversial religious group, and his 80-year-old father are waging holy war over the dad’s explosive new book “Ruthless.”
Ex-Scientologist Ron Miscavige reveals his March 2012 escape from the church led his son to dispatch private detectives with a hit man’s arsenal of weapons in their car trunk to shadow him.
The elder Miscavige draws a grim picture of life within the Church’s barbed wire California compound, and equates his son with a sociopath who rules by terror.
The controversy has irreversibly ruptured the first family of Scientology.
Ron’s two daughters, both Scientology members, are now refusing to let him visit with his grandkids.
The Church characterizes the book as “half-truths and outright lies,” and went to unprecedented lengths to refute its allegations — granting ABC News a rare on-air interview with its lawyer, Monique Yingling.
A four-paragraph Scientology statement ripped Ronald Miscavige for trying to turn a quick buck off his son’s high-profile position.
“Any father exploiting his son in this manner is a sad exercise in betrayal,” the statement said. “Scientologists worldwide love and respect Mr. David Miscavige for his tireless work on behalf of their religion.”
Ron raised his family in Scientology, and joined the Sea Organization (Sea Org) — the elite corps who help run the Church — in 1985.
His son David was already close to the pinnacle of the Church hierarchy. When founder L. Ron Hubbard died in 1986, David presented himself to the thronging faithful as the new Chairman of the Board (COB) and Ecclesiastical Leader.
According to his father, David’s early priority was to turn celebrity Scientologists like Tom Cruise and John Travolta into public relations gold.
Cruise was already a member when David made a point of visiting the Florida movie set where the megastar was preparing to shoot the 1990 movie “Days of Thunder” with Nicole Kidman.
According to the book, David came away obsessed with Cruise — who was still keeping his membership on the down low. The COB greeted Cruise with a royal reception when the actor returned the favor and visited Miscavige.
The two bonded, and Ron claims he was told they once allegedly staged a midnight race through Los Angeles in separate sports cars. In the years since, they’ve made a public show of being best friends.
David was even best man at Cruise’s blowout wedding to Katie Holmes in 2006.
As COB, David poured millions of dollars into finishing construction of a secret compound located 100 miles east of Los Angeles.
The Gold Base was a showcase of 50 buildings with menacing security: High fences topped with razor wire, its barbs unusually turned inward. The area is heavily patrolled, with guard towers and motion sensor cameras alerting security to any unusual movement.
The Church claims the extreme measures are in place to protect the millions of dollars of equipment housed in its state of the art media production studio.
The book, written with fellow Scientology defector/critic Dan Koon, claims the security is used to keep rank and file members corralled and roughed up at David’s whim.
Echoing published accounts of other escapees and court testimony, the book describes horrific scenes of groups of offenders held hostage for months — some for years — in “The Hole.”
Alleged violators were designated as a “suppressive person,” forced to confess their sins to the group, and then attacked by screaming group members.
The Church insists that when David learned staff members were abusing others, he ordered it stopped.
Ron recounts a story heard first-hand that David once forced a group of Scientologists to play a horrific game of musical chairs. The desperate players threw each other around, tearing clothes and breaking chairs, as they fought for the last seat.
The Church claims the story is inflated, that David was merely making the point that personnel changes are like musical chairs.
The book further alleges David once interrogated a staff member in front of others by shouting questions while spitting on him. Another target was banished to live in a swamp, left to build his own lean-to, and restricted in a fenced-in area for a year.
The church denies both stories.
By Ron’s account, David strode around in mirrored sunglasses while instituting measures as harsh as those imposed in North Korea by the notorious madman, Kim Jong Un.
Entrance into the exclusive Sea Org comes at a cost. New members sign a “Billion Year Contract,” forfeiting all their personal rights, upon admittance.
According to the book, members are forced to work seven days a week from breakfast to midnight. They are frequently yanked from beds in the wee hours to perform some urgent, if pointless, task.
Yingling told ABC News that workers expected to put in long hours.
Ron writes that he went 12 years without enjoying a day off. He missed many family occasions, and was only allowed to attend his brother’s funeral in the company of two minders and an armed private investigator.
They would not allow him to talk to his oldest son, Ronnie, who had left Scientology years before.
While David dined nightly on gourmet meals, given a choice of two entrees by his personal chef, the members survive on a subsistence diet with a $20-a-week food allotment.
David reserves a lavish 45,000 foot square office building, rebuilt more than once to meet his demands, for his exclusive use. His staff numbers only about ten.
The members, estimated at about 1,000 people, are crowded into dormitories where the only TV is in a common room. Many are too frightened to watch it.
As the years passed, Ron claims the restrictions became increasing invasive.
Incoming and outgoing mail was opened and censored. Members were forced to submit a written request for authorization to call family members — and calls were monitored on an extension.
The worst incident for Ron came when he was “overboarded,” a practice dating back to when Hubbard ruled from a yacht anchored off the coast in Clearwater, Fla.
Members were punished by being tossed 20 feet into the sea.
David reinstituted the practice, and his father was marched to a stone bridge over a lake. Allowed only to take off his shoes and his watch, Ron was pushed fully clothed over the edge into the murky water below.
Scientologist lawyer Yingling claims the practice was voluntary.
David yearned for years to escape, but he had married fellow Scientologist Becky Bigelow and she was reluctant to leave. Finally, March 25, 2012, they staged their getaway.
It was a Sunday, when the couple followed an established routine. The couple would drive across State Route 79 to the only refrigerator members are allowed to use.
Typically, they would eat some cheese and salami. On this morning, once they passed through the guardhouse, the couple tore down the highway — knowing the always-at-the ready chase cars were in pursuit.
Eluding their captors, the couple drove two days to Whitewater, Wis., to the home of Becky’s mother.
Two Scientologists soon appeared, insisting Ron had to return. They gave up after a month, and the couple assumed their long nightmare was over.
At one point, Ron wrote to David asking for money. After 27 years working for Sea Org, he was ineligible for Social Security. Ron was surprised and grateful to receive a $100,000 check, and he bought a home.
Ron joyfully reconnected with his son Ronnie, and his two daughters in Clearwater. He talked and texted often with Denise, David’s twin, and Lori. They filled him in on the lives of his many grandchildren.
But he knew nothing of what son David was up to.
In July 2013, authorities paid Ron a visit to inform him that two private investigators from the Church of Scientology had followed him for over a year.
In a sitdown with police and an ATF agent, Ron was told a neighbor had reported two suspicious men lurking about. Investigation revealed they were a father-and-son team, Daniel and Dwayne Powell, collecting a weekly $10,000 fee.
The Church had invested $500,000 to tail him. In the trunk of the Powells’ SUV, the cops found handguns, rifles, ammo, a stun gun, a long-range camera and a satellite computer.
The investigators said their main client was David Miscavige. Their job was to “dig up dirt on this guy to make sure he can’t do anything to burn the Church.”
Dwayne Powell recounted seeing Ron lean over and grab his chest in a grocery store parking lot. Powell assumed the old man was having a heart attack and called his client.
The man, who identified himself as David Miscavige, said, “If he dies, he dies. Don’t intervene.”
Ron Miscavige was simply trying to stop his cell phone from falling out of his shirt pocket.
Lawyer Yingling’s version: A team of attorneys hired the investigators, and David knew nothing about it.
Yingling also produced written statements from David’s twin, Denise, and Lori calling their childhood home a “chamber of horrors.” They accused Ron of striking them with his fists and belt.
He divorced his first wife, Loretta, before joining Sea Org. She died in 2005.
To blacken Ron’s character, the Church has revived the 1985 case where Ron was charged with attempted rape in Pennsylvania. The Scientologists had previously referred to Ron as a victim of mistaken identity.
David actually sent a Scientology lawyer in to defend his father. The charge was dropped in a pretrial hearing when the witness said she wasn’t sure Ron was her attacker.
It was then that a grateful Ron decided to go to work for the Church.
While Scientology seems particularly rattled by this book, other escapees have reached out to Ron.
Lisa Marie Presley, who also abandoned Scientology, has come to his defense. Leah Remini, whose exposé “Troublemaker” made headlines last year, is another supporter.
Meanwhile, it remains to be seen how this “Game of Thrones” battle tearing apart the first family of Scientology will play out.
Is winter finally coming to Gold Base?