You didn’t have see HBO’s Going Clearto know that the Church of Scientology is an organization that thrives on deception, intimidation, harassment, abuse, and general nonsense. It was after all founded by one of the most transparently hucksterish men of the 20th century — L. Ron Hubbard — who once noted religion’s penchant for generating profits as well as prophets. The cultish behavior of this arguably criminal enterprise is legendary, and its institutional paranoia is the natural extension of Hubbard’s personal insecurities.
Since Hubbard’s death in 1986, the Church has been led by David Miscavige, a contemptible elf who makes up in megalomania what he lacks in physical stature. According to a report publishedby the Los Angeles Times, Miscavige is the real-life Bond villain we all thought he was, and then some. After his father, Ronald Miscavige, Sr., left the Church in 2012, his son was apparently terrified that he would reveal the inner workings of his former organization. For a year and a half, Ronald was followed by two private investigators who “eavesdropped, spied on his emails and planted a GPS unit on his car, according to police records.”
Creepy surveillance of former members isn’t uncommon, but the Times report also included a disturbing nugget provided by private investigator Dwayne S. Powell, who had been tracking Ronald. Powell was arrested near Milwaukee after someone had reported a suspicious person, and police found him with two rifles, four handguns, ammunition, and a homemade silencer. Here’s what Powell later told authorities:
Once, while tailing Miscavige on a shopping trip, Powell and his partner watched him grasp his chest and slump over while loading his car. After his arrest, Powell told police he’d thought Miscavige was having a heart attack and might die. He said he phoned his intermediary for instructions.
Two minutes later a man who identified himself as David Miscavige called him back, according to records.
“David told him that if it was Ron’s time to die, to let him die and not intervene in any way,” the records state, noting that the apparent emergency passed “and nothing further happened.”
We don’t know what kind of father-son relationship Ronald and David Miscavige had, but unless Ronald was a true son-of-a-bitch, it’s hard to fathom a person saying that someone in distress should be left to die, let alone one’s father. It’s hard to fathom, unless of course that person happens to David Miscavige, who through an attorney denied hiring or even hearing of Powell.
One of the tidbits in Going Clear is that Miscavige and Tom Cruise had Nicole Kidman’s phone tapped in the 1990s while she was married to Cruise. Miscavige disapproved of the relationship in part because Kidman’s father was a prominent psychologist, which made him what the Church calls a “suppressive person.” The film suggests that Miscavige actively torpedoed the marriage, after which he sought a replacement in a long, drawn out audition to find Cruise a significant other.
Of course, the Church’s surveillance isn’t always so subtle, as the following video demonstrates. In it, Scientologists wearing head-cams come to the home of former Church executive Marty Rathbun (who’s featured in Going Clear). Here’s their exchange:
This is the kind of operation that Scientology is, one in which Church members are so threatened by criticism and former members speaking out against it, that they’ll do almost anything to stop it.
Even if it means allowing one’s own father to die.