‘The question we should be asking, is how can the head of a major religion banish his wife, and no one does anything?’
The worst punishments, she recalls, were set aside for those who simply showed a lack of respect for authority. She says that if he felt slighted, David would ‘make people crawl on their knees until they’d blister’. The church categorically denies all claims of abuse. It points to a growing global membership of millions, all seemingly living healthy, productive lives within their communities, as proof that these allegations stem from religious bigotry. However, accusations of criminal and unethical behaviour have dogged Scientology since its birth. This air of animosity between the church and its many critics has led to an ‘us against the world’ mentality among Scientology’s faithful. And it was in this environment that Shelly spent her most formative years.
When Shelly left the care of her parents to work for Hubbard, the Scientology founder was running the church from the Apollo. To this day, the church’s inner circle still goes by the name Sea Org, short for Sea Organization, in honour of those who chose to live on the ocean with their founder. In the decade after she arrived, Shelly became a favourite of Hubbard’s and her stature among her peers grew. In 1982, just before she turned 22, she married the man Hubbard had groomed to be his replacement, David Miscavige.
Unlike Shelly, David was not raised in the church; he and his parents did not convert to Scientology until he was 11. As soon as he joined, however, it was as if Hubbard and the church had been waiting for him to arrive. He was instantly deemed a prodigy by church leaders, and at 12 became the youngest person ever to become an auditor. By many accounts, at the time he married Shelly, he had uno cially taken control of the entire church. Four years later, Hubbard passed away and David took Scientology’s helm. He immediately removed leadership rivals on ethics charges, and took the mantle as the church’s gurehead.
Subsequent years were heady ones for Shelly. But if stories from critics and ex-church leaders are to be believed, those years were also unquestionably dark. Over the next two decades, reports began to surface that David quickly evolved into something of a tyrant, and Shelly a tyrant’s assistant. Some ex-members of Sea Org told tales of David verbally abusing, hitting and spitting on other leaders who fell into his displeasure. They also spoke of ‘The Hole’ – a secret location in
Shelly is believed to be at this secret base hidden deep in the San Bernadino mountains, where the spikes on the fence point inwards; David Miscavige; a young Shelly Miscavige