Story by THOMAS C. TOBIN
© St. Petersburg Times, published October 25, 1998
y 1979, Miscavige, at age 19, advanced to the supervisory position of action chief in the Commodores Messenger Organization. His new job was to send out teams or missions to investigate reports Hubbard was getting about poor management of Scientology organizations around the world.
By 1980, Hubbard was in seclusion. According to church lore, he was continuing his Scientology research and had returned to writing fiction. Critics claim he was hiding from legal troubles and operating the church from afar.
Among the many departments involved in running the church was the Guardians Office, or GO, a group that Miscavige says was separate and autonomous from the rest of church management. It had been handling Scientologys legal, financial and public affairs since 1966 and was headed by Mary Sue Hubbard, the founders wife.
Miscavige said his missions discovered serious problems with the GO, including stealing the best staffers, not paying bills and failing to file legal pleadings on time.
Scientology also had been embarrassed by the 1979 convictions of Mrs. Hubbard and 10 other GO staffers for conspiring to steal federal government documents and cover it up.
Its 20 years later and we had no involvement in it or knowledge it was happening, yet were still handling the fallout of it, Rinder said. He added: That isnt us.
Clearwater never knew Scientology was near collapse from legal problems and its own infighting, Miscavige said. I thought the church would actually disintegrate.
In 1981, as Mary Sue Hubbard appealed her prison sentence, Miscavige said he and others concluded she had to go. When none of his superiors would confront the founders wife, Miscavige stepped forward.
I thought if I do something and its wrong or I dont achieve this, Ive had it. Im toast, he said. But if I dont do something, after seeing what the GO had been engaged in ... Im convinced Im toast anyway.
During two heated encounters, Miscavige persuaded Mary Sue Hubbard to resign. Together they composed a letter to Scientologists confirming her decision -- all without ever talking to L. Ron Hubbard.
He saw the one-on-one meeting as the only way. I knew if it was going to be a physical takeover were going to lose because they had a couple thousand staff and we (the messengers) had about 50. That is the amazing part about it."
People keep saying, Howd you get power? Miscavige said. Nobody gives you power. Ill tell you what power is. Power in my estimation is if people will listen to you. Thats it.
Today, Mary Sue Hubbard lives in California and Miscavige says the two are friends.
It took five months for word of her resignation to reach her secluded husband, Scientology says. In a sworn statement two years later, Hubbard said of his wife: Although we are presently apart, we remain husband and wife.
Miscavige, meanwhile, was rising fast in Scientology, taking charge where others wouldnt.
Scientology underwent a corporate restructuring after the GO episode, and Hubbard appointed Miscavige in 1982 to run his sizeable fortune through a new corporation formally outside Scientologys umbrella. Miscavige was only 21. Author Services Inc., based in Los Angeles, would manage Hubbards personal, business and literary affairs.
As Miscaviges position in Scientology grew, allegations began to surface about his conduct.
Miscavige is incredulous about being linked to her death. California authorities ruled Ms. Barnett shot herself three times in the chest and once in her right temple with a .22-calibre rifle. One of Ms. Barnetts daughters told an investigator she had been depressed following surgery.
In 1982, Hubbards estranged son took legal action, claiming his father was either dead or incompetent. He alleged Miscavige was running Scientology through Author Services and that Miscavige and another church official were looting the founders accounts.
In 1983, Scientology gave the court a sworn statement in which Hubbard claimed to be in a self-imposed seclusion and was fine. The document contained Hubbards fingerprints and was signed with special ink that allowed the date of his signature to be confirmed.
It called Miscavige a trusted associate and good friend who had kept Hubbards affairs in good order. A judge ruled the statement was authentic.
In sworn declarations used in several anti-Scientology lawsuits, Miscavige also has been accused of ordering the shredding of documents sought by the IRS and the courts, ordering attacks of church enemies and striking subordinates.
Miscaviges top lieutenant, Marty Rathbun, said the courts and the IRS got every document they requested. He also said he has never known Miscavige in 20 years to hit anyone. Thats not his temperament, Rathbun said. Hes got enough personal horsepower that he doesnt need to resort to things like that.
Said Miscavige, If a fraction of what they said about me was true -- a fraction -- I wouldnt be here.
He added later: Ive not only not been convicted of anything, Ive never been indicted for anything. Now I think thats where you finally have to look at the, quote, critics and say, Hey. Put up or shut up. Lets see some evidence.
He expressed impatience with the topic, calling the allegations ancient history. Irritated, he said to the Times: I wonder, what am I doing in this room?
One of those critics is Vaughn Young, who once worked with Miscavige and left Scientology in 1989 after 20 years.
Subordinates responded to Miscavige with a combination of admiration and fear, Young said. Hes got a serious vicious streak in him that you dont want to trigger.
But Young offered praise as well: Hes got severe political genius in him. He knows how to pick people. He knows how to make people work for him. He knows how to favor them. He knows how to instill just enough fear and threat. He knows how to push people beyond what they think they can do to get things done.
Miscavige dismisses Young as a consultant who is paid to testify in court against Scientology. Miscavige believes hes targeted by those who wanted to bring Scientology to its knees and destroy it and never forgave him for ousting the GO.
You would think that that would get me at least a simple thank you, he said. Instead what it got me was I think the biggest criminal investigation in the history of the IRS.