Secrets of scientology blown apart as leader of cult to sue own father over book
Published 01/05/2016 | 15:33
For an organisation that so doggedly defends its reputation, Humfrey Hunter thought, the Church of Scientology seemed to have made a major mistake.
Mr Hunter was preparing to publish a book about the church – an expose written by the father of its leader. Last week he received a strongly-worded legal letter from the California-based group, threatening to sue if he releases the book as planned on Tuesday.
Yet the church’s attempt to silence Mr Hunter has backfired spectacularly, he believes.
“My phone has been ringing off the hook,” said the former literary agent, who runs a one-man publishing house in London. The prospect of pitting father versus the son in court, with all the revelations that would entail, has tantalised those fascinated with the shadowy organisation.
“Everyone wants to know about the story now,” he said. “They gave me an opportunity in sending me that letter. Now people can’t wait to see what has got the church so angry.”
The book is written by Ron Miscavige, the 80-year-old father of Scientology leader David. Entitled Ruthless: Scientology, my son David Miscavige, and me, the book promises to lift the lid on the inner workings of a religion to which Ron Miscavige introduced his son. The son rose to the very top, while Mr Miscavige became disillusioned, and fled in 2012.
In the book he details how his son went to great lengths to recruit Tom Cruise, the most high-profile celebrity Scientologist, and soon learnt to enjoy the trappings of wealth - while his staff live in poverty.
“David lives like a prince,” said Mr Miscavige. His staff, he said, live like “indentured servants, at best.”
“He was deeply impressed with the public relations potential that Cruise could lend to Scientology,” writes Ron, according to Radar Online.
To impress the star at the Scientology base, “David orchestrated every detail” of an elaborate welcoming celebration, Ron writes. He arranged for late Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard‘s personal chef to prepare dinner at the pool area, which was designed to look like a luxury sailing boat. But Cruise turned up four hours late and decided he wasn’t hungry, which infuriated David.
The pair restored their bonds, however, and the younger Miscavige was best man at two of Cruise’s weddings – to Nicole Kidman, and Katie Holmes. Cruise remains a devotee, although following a series of high-profile and widely-mocked defences of the church, he now keeps his faith quiet.
And, despite the book is being kept under lock and key until Tuesday, lawyers for the church have lashed out at what they say are the book’s allegations.
They categorically deny that David Miscavige has an “erratic and abusive” management style, and that he seized power on the death of L. Ron Hubbard, in 1986, by outmaneuvering his rivals.
They say it is not true that rebellious members of the church are put in “the Hole” and subject to “violence and depravity,” and they deny that Gold Base – the Scientology headquarters 100 miles out of Los Angeles, where David Miscavige and other senior church figures live – is surrounded by a spiked fence pointing inwards.
They also deny that David Miscavige hired private detectives to follow his father after he left the California site.
In 2013, two private investigators gave taped confessions to the police that the church leader had paid them $10,000 a week to watch his father. When they saw Ron Miscavige stumble and clutch at his heart, they allegedly rang their handlers in a panic. David Miscavige telephoned them back immediately, and reportedly told them: “If he dies, he dies.”
Ron Miscavige initially wanted that to be the title of his book.
"I don’t think they have actually even seen the book yet,” said Mr Hunter. “I certainly haven’t given them a copy, and neither have the US publishers. So it’s funny that they are already making these generic complaints.”
In a statement the church said: “Ronald Miscavige is seeking to make money on the name of his famous son. David Miscavige has taken care of his father throughout his life, both financially and by helping him in even the most dire circumstances.”
Mr Hunter said that Mr Miscavige was motivated to write the book by the deep sadness he felt at losing his family. A father of four, three of his children are devoted Scientologists and only his elder son, also named Ron, has left the church.
“It means a great deal to him,” said Mr Hunter. “His family – his son and two daughters – won’t speak to him. He’s not a young man, and they are the closest relatives he has.”
Tony Ortega, a leading expert on Scientology, said that the book was likely to hit the church hard because Mr Miscavige was a dearly-loved figure in the organisation.
“Ron’s book is dangerous, because he was very popular,” he said. “And I think it’s going to be hard to ignore.
“Scientology has been in crisis for years. More and more people are leaving, because David is just so ruthless.
“All the people close to him say that David sees enemies everywhere. I suppose this book will just prove to him that there are snakes at every turn.”
Ron Miscavige knows that he is putting himself firmly in the church’s crosshairs, and expects to be attacked by the loyalists. He accepts that the church will drudge up a 1985 accusation of attempted rape, which was later dropped for lack of evidence. He also accepts that they will retell how Mr Miscavige used to hit his then-wife Loretta, who he divorced in 1990. She died in 2005.
“We didn’t have a great marriage at all,” he told ABC News, in an interview on Friday night to promote the book. “We had strife, and there was some domestic abuse, which I don’t feel good about, and I don’t think you can make excuses for that, no matter what, or how much time goes by.”
The church told the programme that Mr Miscavige’s acts of domestic abuse are much more serious and frequent than he admits. The church said the memoir is filled with lies, and Monique Yingling, lawyer for the group, called the book “a literary forgery.”
“And the title of the book, Ruthless, I mean, it couldn’t be a falser description of David Miscavige,” she said. “He’s a very compassionate, kind person.”
And as he prepares to publish, Mr Hunter was bracing himself.
“It would all be brilliantly entertaining,” he said. “If it weren’t so sinister.”