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'It was an escape:' father of Scientology founder tells all

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'It was a betrayal.'

Ron and Becky Miscavige escaped the California Scientology compound known as the "Gold Base" and have stepped forward to share their story.

Highlights

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Scientology is a quiet religion shrouded in secrets - many of which are believed to be insane.

Scientology's leader, David Miscavige moved his parents onto the base in 2006, where they were forced to live under extreme restrictions.


"I'm living on a compound...where your mail going out is read before its seal and sent out, where before you get your mail, it's opened and read before you get it," Ron Miscavige explained to 20/20. "Phone calls, you're on the phone, somebody else is listening on an extension."

Everyone and everything is searched and observed at the Gold Base - and, presumably, every other Scientology location.

Former Scientologist turned Church critc, Gary Morehead, explained he was previously the director of security for the Church and it was his job to search everyone's belongings.

"I would go through people's personal belongings out of their berthing, where they slept... obtaining bank records, date of birth, passwords, any personal information, where their family addresses were."

The Church not only keeps tabs on its believers, it also pushes them to the brink of exhaustion in what can be argued as a method of keeping them too tired to question the Church's ethics.

Miscavige admitted he joined the Sea Organization, known as "Sea Org," which is the clergy of the Church. He worked as a musician and composer for the Church from 1985 until the late 2000s, when he could no longer adhere to the rigorous schedule.

Scientology attorney Monique Yingling responded: "These are people that have dedicated their lives to something they really believe in. They may work hard. They may work really long hours... but they enjoy it."

Though Scientologists claim to enjoy their workload, should anyone complain, they are met with swift disciplinary action.


Miscavige described a practice called "over-boarding," in which Sea Org members are disciplined by being thrown from the Sea Org ship into the sea.

Yingling claims over-boarding is entirely voluntary and serves a specific purpose.

"When you jump off...you commit yourself to the sea, so that you'll be cleansed and come back, you know, better. There's... some sort of an ecclesiastical discipline thing or it can be done as a group, and when a group does it, it's more, sort of, because they're all agreeing that somehow they screwed up, and 'let's get together and cleanse ourselves of it.'"

Though Yingling claims people jump, Ron Miscavige firmly claims it is a kind of disciplinary action he has been subjected to before.

"I'm going out there and I'm thinking to myself, this is straight lunatic asylum stuff," Miscavige described. "This is going to make me better? The only effect it had on me is make me all the more want to possibly get out of there."

After fully realizing the lunacy of Scientology, the elderly Miscaviges spent months planning their escape.They conditioned guards to allow them regular Sunday trips to the music studio across the street until the Sunday they were ready to make a run for it.

They proceeded through the Gold Base's gates and drove slowly. When Ron pressed the security gate button, the gate opened without question from security.

"I drove out slowly so it wouldn't arouse suspicion," Miscavige explained. "When I turned left, I put my foot right to the floorboard... I knew we were free. I knew they couldn't catch us. It was an escape. You can't leave. You think you can just walk out? No. You will be stopped. I escaped."

While Miscavige gleefully describes his return to freedom, the Church maintains the Gold Base "is not a prison."

Yingling told "20/20," that "People can come and go as they please, and they do."

Morehead admitted the Church allowed people to come and go - but they had several reasons not to attempt it.

"I wouldn't open up the gate," Morehead stated. "I would send my rover guard down there to meet up with them face-to-face in case he started scaling in and I would try to calm, cool and collectively talk to him on the intercom."

When people happened to desert the Church, one of Morehead's duties was to track them down and return them to the base.

"I used to have to keep a statistic which is a printed out graph of security threats, and that was the people who wanted to leave or the people [who] had left that we brought back and were undergoing handling.

"So every time somebody left, I learned something new to make it that much quicker for me to find somebody... the amount of sheer pressure that I would get until that person was back here was incredible."

Luckily for the Miscaviges, the Church did not pursue them. In fact, Ron quickly realized his years with the Church meant he hardly qualified for any social security or other benefits.

When the Miscaviges realized their dire financial situation, they wrote a letter to their son.

"In that letter, I said, 'Hey, listen, I spent a lot of years in the Sea Org, I couldn't live under those conditions, and I have very little money paid into social security. If you can give me some financial help, I would appreciate it," Miscavige said.

His son gave him $100,000 in response.

"Maybe he read it and he's thinking, you know, 'he is my old man and he's old, maybe I'll help him out,'" Miscavige said. "And then on the other hand... I think, 'well, maybe he did it just so it would be insurance that I wouldn't do anything.' And I wasn't going to do anything."

Regardless of their son's reasons, Ron and Becky Miscavige were able to purchase a home and are currently living well away from Scientology. Ron Miscavige also wrote a memoir titled "Ruthless: Scientology, My Son David Miscavige, and Me" due to be released May 3.

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