David’s position of absolute authority in the church brings to mind the analogy of a military strongman who lives a lavish lifestyle while the citizens of the country live in poverty. David has well-appointed apartments or living facilities in all of Scientology’s major centers: the headquarters in Hemet, Los Angeles, Clearwater, St. Hill in England and aboard the Freewinds. As I have mentioned, he has only the highest quality food served at every meal. at the Hemet base, he had an exercise facility built that only he and certain celebrities such as Tom Cruise are allowed to use. Incidentally, because of my lifelong interest in exercise, I researched, found, and bought the equipment for the gym. The church furnishes all his vehicles and transportation, including motorcycles, cars and vans. He wears suits tailored by top Los Angeles tailors and once received a $10,000 suit from one for his birthday. And speaking of birthdays, every April the churches around the world pressure their meagerly paid staff to buy birthday presents for him. Rank-and-file Sea Org members receive a standard allowance of $50 a week for incidentals. Many weeks, however, this amount is reduced because of financial pressures, sometimes to zero. During some years we were paid nothing throughout most of the year—except when it was time to shell out for David’s Christmas or birthday presents. Still, after the weekly staff meeting at which everyone lines up to collect their pay, someone is there to take 30 or 40 percent of their pittance to help buy COB [chairman of the board] a new camera or high-end mountain bike or high-tech gadget. The same thing happens at Christmas when different organizations try to outdo one another to express their gratitude. Make no mistake: David’s position of absolute power is a comfortable and well-feathered nest.
I recall a time when he walked in wearing a nice pair of shoes. “I got the shoes I told you about while I was over in England,” he said. “Custom made.”
“Good-looking shoes,” I said. “How much did they cost?”
“Fifteen hundred bucks.”
I was stunned. Fifteen hundred dollars is what I made in the Sea Org for an entire year’s work. At that time, Sea Org members made $30 a week. Yet he had the wherewithal to drop $1,500 on a single pair of shoes.
David obviously saw the look on my face and told me in a somewhat embarrassed tone, “You know, these really do feel different,” trying to convince me that these nice shoes really were worth ten or more times the usual price of a decent pair.
All the booty David accumulates doesn’t take a dime out of his pocket. Sea Org members are meant to be rewarded for their production. What they produce on their jobs is counted up weekly, and [Ron] Hubbard recommended that, for stellar performance, staff should receive bonuses on top of their allowance. Dave has worked it out so that he receives not only weekly bonuses but also hefty year-end bonuses. The allowance that other Sea Org members receive isn’t even an afterthought for him. A former RTC [Religious Technology Center] staff member who worked in its finance division told me that David would have shirts custom made at a cost of $200 each, and he would wear them once. Maybe this was for special events but still. Once? Scientology is supposed to be a church.
In comparison, other Sea Org members live like monks. Their weekly allowance would not pay for activities on a day off, if they were ever allowed a day off. I have already mentioned the difference in the food allowance. As for living quarters, unmarried men and women live in dorms for each, while married couples have single rooms. Quarters are not lavish by any means. Sea Org members are furnished with uniforms, but when items wear out, people are expected to buy replacements out of pocket. You can bet that church public relations executives will counter what I write by showing the beautiful facilities at the Gold base—the soccer fields, basketball and tennis courts, running path with exercise stations, the nine-hole golf course, Olympic-size swimming pool, the landscaping with manicured lawns and tended flower beds and functional but beautiful architecture. And they would be right: the facilities at Gold are first rate. Of course, staff members work in the production spaces for as long as 24 hours a day and rarely, if ever, get to enjoy the recreational facilities. At one time L. Ron Hubbard mandated that all staff should have one hour a day for exercise. It was to be in the daily schedule, he ordered.
And at times, the staff was allowed this time. It would be implemented, and people would begin exercising.
Two weeks later, some emergency, or “flap,” would happen and exercise time would drop out again, only to be resurrected some years later, again for a week or two. While David lives like a prince wherever he travels and flies first class or in Tom Cruise’s private jet, the rest of the Sea Org lives like indentured servants, at best.
To be truthful, though, I would not begrudge him any of the perks of his leadership if he had remained true to the humanitarian objectives laid out by L. Ron Hubbard. Instead, David has managed to do virtually the opposite, for purposes, it seems, of keeping himself and a handful of well-paid lawyers living comfortable lifestyles.
I write all this to make what I think is the central point of my story: there is a world of difference between what I found workable in the actual philosophy of Scientology and how David has twisted it to his own ends. How did it come to this? How did a young boy who was an affectionate, happy, bright kid with a great sense of humor and a desire to help others grow into a man who surrounds himself only with people who suck up to him and lives a lavish lifestyle while those who work for him live no better than medieval serfs? What is the catalyst for such an unfortunate transformation?
I have concluded that it is the acquisition of power. Some who come into positions of power may be able to remain whole and true to themselves, but my son David has demonstrated beyond doubt that he is not one of them.
Excerpted from Ruthless by Ron Miscavige. Copyright © 2016 by the author and reprinted by permission of Thomas Dunne Books, an imprint of St. Martin’s Press, LLC.
Ron Miscavige is the father of David Miscavige, the leader of the Church of Scientology. Ron and his family joined Scientology in 1970, and he worked for the Sea Org for almost 27 years before leaving the church entirely in 2012. He is a Marine veteran and professional musician, and he lives in Milwaukee.