David Miscavige is the leader of the Church of Scientology and is presently the Chairman of the Board of Religious Technology Center (RTC), an American non-profit corporation that controls the trademarks and copyrights of Dianetics and Scientology. The story of his rise to power is on par with classical drama featuring politics, intrigue and betrayal. An ailing child, he became a follower of Scientology along with his family after a miraculous treatment that cured him. According to his father, a tough and smart kid, he rose up the ranks quickly to become Scientology founder, L. Ron Hubbard's confidant at the age of 16. He assumed power after Hubbard's death and steered the organization with an iron fist. Along the way, he has faced countless criticisms and negative media reports, including legal proceedings, but he has continued his journey of expanding the organization internationally. However, in recent times, most of his family members have stepped away from his side one by one, including his wife, his brother, his niece, and his father. Most notably, his father went so far as to write a book on his relationship with his son, criticizing his actions.
Childhood & Early Life
David Miscavige was born on April 30, 1960, in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. The youngest of Ron and Loretta Miscavige's four children, he was raised in Willingboro Township, New Jersey, in a Roman Catholic Polish-Italian family. His father was a trumpet player.
According to the family, David, who suffered from asthma and severe allergies as a child, was miraculously cured of his ailments during a 45-minute Dianetics session. Following this event, the family joined Scientology in 1971 and moved to Saint Hill Manor, England, the church's world headquarters.
David, who attended high school at Marple Newtown, returned to Philadelphia a few years later to complete school. However, with his father's permission, he left school after turning 16 and moved to Clearwater, Florida, to join the Sea Org, a religious order which controlled all Scientology management organizations.
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Rise to Power
Starting as a steward who ran errands, David Miscavige became a confidant of Scientology's founder, L. Ron Hubbard, in his late teenage days. In 1977, he started working directly under Hubbard and served as a cameraman for Scientology training films.
He later became a part of a group of young Scientologists called the Commodore's Messenger Organization (CMO), which was responsible for enforcing Hubbard's policies within the individual Scientology organizations. He became the head of the organization in 1979.
As Hubbard stopped appearing at public events of the church in 1980, David became the de facto leader of the organization. In 1981, he was given the responsibility to handle legal claims against Hubbard and started to manage Hubbard’s literary and financial affairs.
After Mary Sue Hubbard, wife of L. Ron Hubbard and second-in-command of the organization, pleaded guilty of criminal conspiracy during Operation Snow White, David persuaded her to resign from the Guardian's Office. He also purged many other top officials through ethics proceedings.
In 1982, he founded Religious Technology Center (RTC) to control and oversee the use of all of the trademarks, symbols and texts of Scientology and Dianetics. He has retained the position of the organization's Chairman of the Board since 1986.
Hubbard's estranged son, Ronald DeWolf, accused Miscavige of manipulating his father to assume control over the organization. However, Hubbard provided a written statement in which he referred to Miscavige as a "good friend" and "trusted associate".
David Miscavige introduced stricter policies on Scientology trademark usage in October 1982 and replaced most management posts with his RTC team. In the next couple of years, many of the ousted members attempted to establish breakaway organizations, but none survived more than a few years.
He announced the death L. Ron Hubbard to Scientologists at the Hollywood Palladium in 1986 and assumed the rank of Captain, the head of the organization. Following Hubbard's death, Scientologist, Pat Broeker, and his wife circulated an order apparently from Hubbard, promoting them to Loyal Officers, the highest-ranking members of the organization. Miscavige ignored the order claiming it was forged.
Since the 1970s, the organization had filed over fifty lawsuits, as well as made many covert attempts at sullying Internal Revenue Service (IRS) officials in order to coerce them into agreeing to tax exemptions for the organization. In 1991, along with Marty Rathbun, Miscavige arranged a meeting with the commissioner of IRS in order to earn the organization recognition as a nonprofit charitable organization in exchange for closing the lawsuits. The Church of Scientology was eventually granted tax exemption after a couple of years.
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In 2003, Miscavige started building new churches, as well as remodeling old ones, with the aim of having a church in every major city in the world. The initiative has opened 38 new facilities around the world so far.
Following a decade-long delay, Miscavige finally completed one of his biggest projects, the Flag Building, on November 17, 2013. Its purpose is to deliver the Super Power Rundown, a high-level training course for Scientologists.
Personal Life & Legacy
David Miscavige married Michele Diane "Shelly" Miscavige, a fellow Sea Org member, in December 1982. She was one year younger to him and served Scientology founder, L. Ron Hubbard, as a member of the CMO since she was 12.
After Miscavige assumed the position of the Chairman of the Board (COB) of Scientology's Religious Technology Center, his wife started serving as his official assistant. Apparently, she fell from grace after she allegedly filled several job vacancies without asking her husband.
Actress Leah Remini, a close friend of David's wife, filed a police report in August 2013 claiming that Michele has been missing since her last public appearance in 2007. According to some Sea Org members she was being kept captive at a church facility on Gilman Springs Road in San Jacinto, California. Church of Scientology arranged a meeting between Michele and the Los Angeles Police Department, following which the case was closed, but the police declined to answer further questions.
David's elder brother, Ronald Miscavige, Jr., served as a member of Sea Org, but left the church in 2000. His daughter, Jenna Miscavige Hill, left Sea Org in 2005 and wrote a book titled ‘Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology And My Harrowing Escape’ which severely criticized the practices of the organization.
David’s father, Ron Miscavige Sr. left the church in 2012. A year later, police arrested a man named Powell for spying on Ron, allegedly hired by Church of Scientology. David, as well as the church, however, denied any connection with Powell.
After the report of surveillance surfaced, it was revealed that the spy was told not to intervene when Ron apparently had a heart attack. This incident prompted Ron to co-author the book ‘Ruthless: Scientology, My Son David Miscavige, and Me’ (2016) with Dan Koon. In the book, he claimed that his son's brutal approach to running the organization had disastrous effects on countless numbers of Scientologists and their families.
Famous actor Tom Cruise is a close friend of David Miscavige. David served as best man at Cruise's wedding to Katie Holmes, which was reportedly arranged by his wife Michele.
At the age of 12, David conducted auditing sessions for Scientology. He became the youngest professional Scientology auditor.