A father’s nightmarish account of the Church of Scientology’s transformation into a “coercive” cult under the authoritarian leadership of his son, David Miscavige.
Musician Ron Miscavige, now 80, broke with Scientology in 2012 after more than four decades as a member, nearly 30 of them as a staffer at the church’s base near Hemet, California, where he composed and arranged music for films and videos. This insider’s memoir, published despite a threatened lawsuit for libel—and so explosive that even its sometimes cliché-ridden sentences do not interfere with compulsive reading—confirms allegations of wrongdoing made familiar to many by the book and HBO exposé Going Clear. David rose to power after church founder L. Ron Hubbard’s 1986 death and soon displayed a burgeoning “mean streak and ruthless ways” that turned an organization dedicated to world betterment into a “manipulative, coercive, and…evil” group aimed at “strong-arming people out of their money.” After describing David’s happy childhood in a Pennsylvania coal-mining town, the author explains how a chance encounter led the family to join Scientology: David’s asthma improved, and the author found himself better able to manage his difficult first marriage. But bright, hardworking David changed drastically as the head of the church. The author speculates that David’s habit of denigrating Scientology members may trace back to childhood when, occasionally bullied over his diminutive size, he would pick fights with classmates. Whatever the reason, David has “become corrupt” as chairman of the church, rebuking members, giving brutal tongue-lashings, “nullifying” people, demanding they work to the brink of exhaustion, and isolating offenders in “The Hole.” Indeed, writes the author, David exhibits the characteristics of a sociopath. The elder Miscavige was treated routinely in a “demeaning” manner. On leaving the church, he says, he was “disconnected”—Scientologists, including his two daughters, may no longer communicate with him—and followed by detectives.
A sad and painful but bravely told story. Acknowledging his son’s mistakes and hoping things will change, the author concludes, “David, I forgive you.”