The Man Behind Scientology

Source: St. Petersburg Times
Date: October 25, 1998

When David Miscavige recounts his rise to power in the Church of Scientology - a journey that began when he quit high school at age 16 - it is mostly a story of war.

War against renegade Scientologists. War against Scientology's critics. War against its one-time archenemy, the IRS.

But Scientology's 38-year-old leader insists he is a determined peacemaker as well.

After years spent well outside the public's radar screen, Miscavige says he plans to step forward now and take a central role in trying to end differences with those who still oppose Scientology, the self-improvement "technology" devised by the late L. Ron Hubbard in the early 1950s.

In his first-ever newspaper interview, Miscavige told the Times that Clearwater is the scene of "possibly the last long-running conflict" for Scientology. He said he wants to take "big steps" to end hostilities there.

To do it, Miscavige is employing a strategy that is a hallmark of his career: personal intervention.

The Miscavige way can include a generous helping of the audacious personality that fueled his steep rise within Scientology, and helped him at age 21 to engineer a purge of rogue church members.

It also can have an element of surprise, as the IRS saw in 1991 when Miscavige showed up unannounced in its Washington lobby wanting to see the agency's director.

Indeed, Miscavige surprised Clearwater City Manager Mike Roberto in April when he ended up presiding over what was to be Roberto's get-acquainted session with local Scientologists. Roberto stayed for four hours.

Miscavige's friends say he is "intense" and "insistent" and "doesn't suffer fools lightly." Scientology's critics say he is a bully.

He will challenge with a blue-eyed stare or lean forward with a direct, no-nonsense question. His attention sticks to the discussion at hand, and his words shoot out machine gun-style, in the accent of the Philadelphia suburb where he grew up. He will pound a table for emphasis or snap his fingers so hard you imagine they sting.

He is an early-rising, late-working mix of energy and emotion and confidence, all in a solid, 5-foot-5 frame.

"Let me tell you, I take a great deal of pride in creating peace," said Miscavige, who became Scientology's leader at age 26. "And I have been involved in a few situations or conflicts that looked unresolvable ... and I was capable of resolving them."

He said he expects his efforts to improve Scientology's standing with local residents and change its image as a combative and insular cult.

He said Scientology could be more open to outsiders and he acknowledged it could pick its fights more carefully. It is "misconception one" that Scientology likes to fight, he said.

Miscavige also addressed a long-standing fear in Clearwater, where Scientology secretly established its spiritual headquarters in 1975 and continues to buy land for a major expansion. "There's no master plan to take over any city anywhere in the world," he said.

On a larger scale, Miscavige said he is trying to parlay Scientology's cherished IRS tax exemption into "religious recognition" in the major countries of Europe, where the church has battled for acceptance. He said he wants to do it by the year 2000.

That goal echoes what he told 10,000 stomping, clapping Scientologists after announcing the exemption in 1993. At the time, Miscavige called it "a sort of government stamp of approval," and said it meant "everything" for Scientology.

In his interview with the Times, he agreed his planned efforts in Clearwater parallel his bold approach to the IRS.

The city is a major destination for thousands of Scientologists, including many who come for discounted counseling packages that, according to recent brochures, can range from $8,000 to $77,000.

But it also is where the police believe a crime was committed in the death of Lisa McPherson, a 36-year-old parishioner who died after a 17-day stay at Scientology's Fort Harrison Hotel.

It is where a four-term mayor remains a perennial Scientology critic; where 3,000 Scientologists marched angrily against the police chief last December; and where the city and church are immersed in a lawsuit over records of a 13-year police investigation of Scientology.

One "big step" toward peace, Miscavige said, would be him meeting with police Chief Sid Klein to "resolve all matters with the Clearwater police. Not grudgingly. Truly."

Another would be meeting Mayor Rita Garvey, he said, perhaps "at some combined function."

Miscavige also said it was significant he agreed to be interviewed by the Times, which won a 1980 Pulitzer Prize for its investigation of Scientology and continues to vigorously cover the church. He even allowed the newspaper to visit the quiet assembly line where workers manufacture "e-meters," the electronic devices that Scientologists say can track thoughts.

He said he believes Roberto, the city manager, looks to the newspaper as a key source of direction on Scientology.

"You have now hit upon why I'm willing to talk to you," he told a Times news team during a three-day visit to Scientology's Los Angeles area headquarters. "If I make an effort to resolve something I have every intention of doing so ... I have every intention of keeping my word."

Can he succeed?

Can Miscavige tame the aggressive instincts that Hubbard, as Scientology's founder, so strongly encouraged - and that outsiders have found to be frightening and heavy-handed?

"I think the misunderstanding comes about because we can fight a good war," Miscavige said. "If we get involved in a war where we feel our survival is threatened, we will dedicatedly fight. But I think any dedicated institution, especially a religious organization, will do that. That is the history of religion.

"But when it's over, we can carry on with our main mission in life, which is Scientology. And I was trying to explain to Roberto that I not only am saying that, I have a history of doing so."

When attacked, Hubbard instructed his followers, "Treat all skirmishes like wars." But he also told them: "Always be ready to parley - that is, have a conference and settle it." He said, "One cannot just fight."

No one in Scientology is more dedicated to Hubbard's words than Miscavige. As chairman of Scientology's Religious Technology Center, his job is to "preserve, maintain and protect" Scientology, but he insists he is not involved in the daily management of church operations.

Not only was he the founder's protege and trusted aide, he is to Scientologists what the pope is to Catholics - a leader who sets the tone, establishes goals and ensures that Hubbard's policies and teachings are followed with precision.

The question is which of the founder's maxims will apply as Miscavige approaches Clearwater.

"I think he would be received with great skepticism," said Roberto. "It is not an organization that has the smoothest past to deal with."

But he also said he and Miscavige have an understanding they can improve relations, provided there are no more attacks against the police and the lawsuit is settled.

While Miscavige proposes "big steps," Roberto said he wants "short steps." He explained why, referring to the Scientologists' march on police headquarters: "Last December is not that far away."

Mayor Garvey said Miscavige was putting "a different spin" on Scientology. "It's called doing a good PR program," she said. "What they're doing at this time is loving us to death. But, ultimately, the internal workings are the same."

She said she had "no idea" what Miscavige could do to win her over. "The community does not trust them."

Klein, the police chief, said the two sides can't even settle their lawsuit over the police investigation much less reach a general peace.

"If we're talking 'big steps,' I think it's time to put up or shut up," he said. "They want a big first step. There's one."

Miscavige "absolutely" can bring about peace in Clearwater, said Monique Yingling, a friend and Washington lawyer who helped Miscavige battle the IRS. "He has the most incredible ability to just cut through the bull----."

Despite a traditional education that ended at age 16, Miscavige also "has one of the most incisive minds I've ever seen," Yingling said.

"He's just very effective at listening to what people's concerns are and saying, 'We can come up with a solution to that.' "

David Miscavige was born with a twin sister into a Polish-Italian family. Home was a new, two-story colonial house in southern New Jersey.

And while the family of two boys and two girls attended public schools and didn't always make it to Sunday mass, the youngest son of Ron Miscavige Sr. and his wife Loretta, received his first communion and first confession in the Catholic church.

David Miscavige was a small boy who suffered from asthma and severe allergies, but he was determined to play football, basketball and baseball. Ron Miscavige Sr. once filled his son's pockets with two-pound metal plates so he could meet the 60-pound minimum and become a defensive back for the Pennypacker Patriots.

The father, who made a living playing trumpet, said he first heard of Scientology by chance at a meeting about a business opportunity. He read some of Hubbard's books and began to receive "auditing," a Scientology counseling process with the goal of locating negative emotions and purging them from the mind.

One day, as David Miscavige struggled through a serious asthma attack, his father took him to a Scientologist. According to both father and son, the attack stopped suddenly after a 45-minute auditing session.

"It was the reactive mind," David Miscavige said, referring to Hubbard's belief that mental images called "engrams" are stored in the unconscious and can cause negative emotions and physical pain.

"From that moment I knew this is it," he said. "I mean I absolutely know that that is the point in my life where I said, 'This is it ... I have the answer.' "

A short time later, the entire Miscavige family began to study at a local Scientology mission. From there, they graduated to higher levels of Scientology services at the church's "advanced organization" in East Grinstead, England.

Ron Miscavige Sr. said he sold belongings, put furniture in storage and took his family to England.

"Before I made this decision I had planned on getting them an education," he said. "Once I got in Scientology I said, 'Wait a minute. This is something that they've never had.' ... And I knew this would help them more than anything I could possible get them to do."

In England, it did not take long for the younger Miscavige boy to make his mark. He began auditing other people at age 12; he became the 4,867th Scientologist to become "clear," a state in which a person is freed of the "reactive mind;" and he set his sights on a career in Scientology.

By age 15, Miscavige was back in suburban Philadelphia for his sophomore year of high school.

It was the spring of 1976 and Hubbard had just established a "land base" for Scientology parishioners in Clearwater after years of operating from a ship known as the Apollo.

At the time, Miscavige said, he found the drug use among his classmates "appalling." He decided Clearwater was a good place to work with Hubbard, and he quit high school on his 16th birthday.

"I totally sanctioned it," said Ron Miscavige Sr., who today is a staff musician for Scientology in California.

"I wanted to dedicate my life to this," David Miscavige said, explaining his decision to drop out of high school. "The thought of hanging around two more years in that existence so that I could match up with the status quo meant nothing to me because I knew that in two years I would go and work with the church anyway."

He would get a much different education in Scientology.

Once in Clearwater, Miscavige joined the Sea Organization, the Navy-style staff that pledges eternal service to Scientology. He worked in the Commodore's Messenger Organization, a group charged with making sure Scientology management was functioning according to Hubbard's policies.

He bunked on the Fort Harrison Hotel's ninth floor, delivered telexes, helped tend the grounds and worked as a steward serving food. He also took pictures of Clearwater for Scientology's promotional brochures.

Before long, he was assigned to help with problems caused by the sudden influx of parishioners and staff in Clearwater. Miscavige was reviewing and training staffers, a job that allowed him to give directives to people many years his senior.

The teenager from New Jersey showed no timidity.

When "someone 15 years younger than you is starting to tell you something, you either have tremendous respect for that person ... or you don't listen to them," said Greg Wilhere, then the leading Scientology official in Clearwater who now works under Miscavige in California. Miscavige, he said, "had the ability to make things go right."

Miscavige was coming of age in a culture that believes each person is a spirit or "thetan" who operates with all the experience and competence born of many previous lives.

Hubbard wrote that a child is "not a special species of animal" distinct from adults, but "a man or a woman who has not attained full growth."

After 10 months in Clearwater Miscavige was picked - he's still not sure by whom - to join an elite group working directly with Hubbard, who was producing Scientology training films in LaQuinta, Calif.

Miscavige recalls meeting the founder in 1977. Hubbard, then 66, wore a straw cowboy hat, slacks, a short-sleeved shirt and boots. He was leaving a dining room when the teenager from Clearwater introduced himself. "Oh, I know who you are," he remembers Hubbard saying. "Welcome aboard."

As most Scientologists do, Miscavige often refers to Hubbard by his initials, LRH. He says Hubbard called him by the nickname "Misc" (pronounced Misk).

"I never thought LRH was looking at me as: Oh, Dave is 17 years old or 18 years old," Miscavige said. "It was just Dave, person to person. Spiritual being to spiritual being, so to speak."

Miscavige, a photography bug, quickly grasped filmmaking concepts such as camera angles and continuity, said Norman Starkey, who was on the camera crew and now is a high-ranking Scientologist. "He was always thinking ahead, thinking of the future, predicting it and taking action."

Hubbard appointed Miscavige camera chief and considered him his best friend, Starkey said. And in the mornings, when the film crew gathered for work, "David Miscavige was always the first person whose hand he'd shake."

By 1979, Miscavige, at age 19, advanced to the supervisory position of "action chief" in the Commodore's 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.

Among the young "missionaires" Miscavige enlisted were Mike Rinder and Marty Rathbun, now in their 40s and among the highest ranking officials in Scientology.

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 Guardian's Office, or "GO," a group that Miscavige says was separate and autonomous from the rest of church management. It had been handling Scientology's legal, financial and public affairs since 1966 and was headed by Mary Sue Hubbard, the founder's 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.

Miscavige, Rathbun and Rinder insist the GO was responsible for the activities that so enraged people in Clearwater. According to FBI files, Scientology arrived with plans to control civic leaders and discredit critics. An attempt was made to frame then-Mayor Gabe Cazares with a sex smear.

"It's 20 years later and we had no involvement in it or knowledge it was happening, yet we're still handling the fallout of it," Rinder said. He added: "That isn't 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 founder's wife, Miscavige stepped forward.

"I thought if I do something and it's wrong or I don't achieve this, I've had it. I'm toast," he said. "But if I don't do something, after seeing what the GO had been engaged in ... I'm convinced I'm 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 we're going to lose because they had a couple thousand staff and we (the "messengers") had about 50. That is the amazing part about it.'

Indeed, the scenario is hard to imagine in any other organizational setting. A 21-year-old employee, five years on the staff and with only a modicum of power, manages to oust the boss's wife by arguing that is what the boss would want.

"People keep saying, 'How'd you get power?' " Miscavige said. "Nobody gives you power. I'll tell you what power is. Power in my estimation is if people will listen to you. That's 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 wouldn't.

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 Scientology's umbrella. Miscavige was only 21. Author Services Inc., based in Los Angeles, would manage Hubbard's personal, business and literary affairs.

As Miscavige's position in Scientology grew, allegations began to surface about his conduct.

He lists two without being asked. One is that he raided Hubbard's assets and did "harm to the founder." The other is the suggestion Miscavige was involved in the 1985 suicide of his mother-in-law, Mary Florence Barnett, who was said to have associated with a splinter group of Scientologists.

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. Barnett's daughters told an investigator she had been depressed following surgery.

In 1982, Hubbard's 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 founder's 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 Hubbard's 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 Hubbard's 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.

Miscavige's 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. "That's not his temperament," Rathbun said. "He's got enough personal horsepower that he doesn't need to resort to things like that."

Said Miscavige, "If a fraction of what they said about me was true - a fraction - I wouldn't be here."

He added later: "I've not only not been convicted of anything, I've never been indicted for anything. Now I think that's where you finally have to look at the, quote, critics and say, 'Hey. Put up or shut up. Let's 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. "He's got a serious vicious streak in him that you don't want to trigger."

But Young offered praise as well: "He's 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. He believes he's 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."

Of all Scientology's conflicts, none is more bitter than its 40- year battle with the IRS.

For years, the IRS had denied the Church of Scientology a tax exemption, saying it was a commercial enterprise. The church appealed, spending millions on lawyers.

As tensions mounted in the months after the Guardian's Office was disbanded, the IRS launched a criminal investigation of Scientology that focused on Miscavige.

"He was always on the defensive," said Washington lawyer Gerald Feffer, who has represented the church in IRS matters since 1984. "He lived in an environment where people (federal investigators) were trying to destroy his family, himself and his church."

Miscavige said he was targeted by IRS agents in Los Angeles who blamed him for Guardian's Office crimes. He said the government's main witnesses against him were spurned Guardian staffers.

The IRS would not confirm the investigation, much less discuss it. But Feffer said it was never acted upon by the Justice Department and dropped in 1985. Some time later, Feffer said, he approached the IRS about Scientology's tax exemption and was rebuffed.

Amid Scientology's IRS troubles, Hubbard died in 1986 while still in seclusion. Later that year, Miscavige rose to the position he holds today after ousting a church executive who, he said, was re- hiring ousted Guardian staffers.

Hostilities escalated in the late 1980s when the IRS began to audit the income tax returns of thousands of Scientologists. Scientology responded with lawsuits and massive records requests, seeking to document IRS discrimination. It also investigated IRS employees and published scathing reports of the agency in the Scientology magazine, Freedom.

At the height of the war in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the church was spending about $1.5-million a month in legal fees, largely to fight the IRS.

The church's lawyers said they tried for years to work through IRS channels, and that Miscavige kept pushing for a direct meeting, going right to the top.

It became an inside joke, until one day in Washington in 1991 Miscavige and Rathbun told their lawyers they were headed to see IRS Commissioner Fred Goldberg.

"He does get you out of the mindset of you have to do things in traditional ways," Feffer said of Miscavige. "He had an unwillingness to accept there was no way to solve the problem."

Miscavige didn't see Goldberg that day, but the impromptu visit got him a later meeting and a two-year review process.

The IRS had hundreds of questions. Scientology found itself having to explain such Hubbard directives as "make more money" and "make other people produce so as to make money."

The church argued that the IRS had taken those statements out of context - that Hubbard's remarks were directed only at the finance and treasury divisions, which constituted 4 percent of the staff.

Goldberg, the IRS commissioner, did not return telephone calls to his Washington law office.

Seven days after the exemption was approved, 10,000 Scientologists were summoned to the Los Angeles Sports Arena for what they were told was a big announcement. Miscavige took the podium in a black tuxedo as two olympic-size torches burned behind him. He held the audience in suspense for much of his 2 1/2-hour speech, before proclaiming: "The war is over!"

The ovation lasted more than 10 minutes.

Although peace was at hand, Miscavige used the occasion to recount the entire war, tracing its origins to a conspiracy by psychiatrists. He called them "pea-brained psych-indoctrinated mental midgets" who once plotted with the government to make a "slave society."

He referred to IRS officials as "vampires" and gave a litany of their sins against Scientology.

And he railed against those who "deliberately tried to stop us," adding with a smile: "We know who they are and we'll get to them last."

After 1993, Scientology was able to channel the millions it was spending against the IRS into projects that had been under way since the early 1980s.

Among them: trying to grow Scientology by attracting new members; pushing parishioners to sign up for ever higher levels of Scientology counseling; standardizing Scientology practices the way Hubbard outlined; preserving and distributing his many writings and lectures, and renovating Scientology's buildings.

"The one incredible thing that we all needed was what David did," said jazz musician Chick Corea, a long-time Scientologist who lives in Clearwater. "(He) came and took all the dropped balls and caught them all and kind of saved the organization from splintering apart, and put it back together again for all our sakes."

Now, Scientology's global 10-year plan calls for a mission in every city of 100,000 or more and a church in every city of 250,000 to 500,000, Miscavige said.

In the U.S., Scientology sees opportunity for growth in parts of the country with little or no Scientology presence, Miscavige said. "You go to the Midwest there's not much at all."

He also has been trying to improve Scientology's public image, even as reports persist that Scientology harasses its enemies with private investigators, lawsuits, and tactics such as bad-mouthing targets to neighbors, relatives and business associates.

The image needs work, he said. "Am I satisfied? No. Of course not. Do I think it's improved? Yes. Do I think we have more credibility than we had in earlier years? Yes. Do I think it should change? I think it should improve. Do I think that's something that can happen overnight? Not quite."

Scientologists on occasion had "no choice" but to fight, he said.

"Have they been right every time? Probably not. Should they make as big an effort at mending fences? I think so ... Is there another approach that could have been taken? I think probably."

One remaining hurdle for Scientology is the Lisa McPherson case, now in the hands of prosecutors who are deciding whether a criminal charge is warranted. McPherson, 36, was a Scientologist who became psychotic after a minor auto accident in 1995 and was taken from Morton Plant Hospital to avoid psychiatric treatment, which Scientologists believe is harmful.

Her fellow Scientologists watched her for 17 days at the church's Fort Harrison Hotel before driving her to a hospital. Gaunt and dehydrated, she was dead on arrival from a blood clot in her lung.

Miscavige suggested the same situation would be handled differently in the future.

"Do I think that we should work with the community or the police or the medical people down there to work out what to do if there's another Scientologist who needs care and we want to avoid psychiatric treatment? Yes I do," Miscavige said. "And why is that? No matter what the circumstance ... anybody would want to do something to avoid someone dying."

It is Scientology's first acknowledgement that the four-star hotel may not have been the best place for McPherson.

Miscavige also said he believes some people were "thrilled" by McPherson's death because it could be used against Scientology.

"Here's what I do know," he said, slapping his black leather desk top with each word. "No Scientologist - no Scientologist - is involved in attempting to do in another Scientologist."

Miscavige said he usually does not involve himself in local issues, such as which buildings Scientology will buy in Clearwater. Nor was he called, he said, the night McPherson died.

He will, however, stay active on larger matters such as the 300,000-square-foot building Scientology wants to build across from the Fort Harrison Hotel.

When early architectural renderings resulted space-age designs that, Miscavige said, "looked like a hockey rink to me," he steered church planners toward a historic look to match the Fort Harrison.

Despite Miscavige's high place in Scientology, his associates say he doesn't receive many more perks than a nice office, a fantastic wardrobe and proximity to Scientology's stable of celebrity parishioners, including his friends Tom Cruise and John Travolta.

Beyond the intense exterior, Miscavige can deal a humorous one- liner. Friends say he is given to sending unexpected notes and gifts.

He drives a Honda around Los Angeles and lives in staff quarters with his wife, Michelle, who is one of his paid assistants. Reports to the IRS in the early 1990s put his salary in the $60,000 range, and Rathbun says it's $50,000 now.

During frequent visits to Clearwater, where his mother lives, Miscavige said he spends his nights in Scientology's staff dormitory, a converted apartment complex on Saturn Avenue. He said he eats in Scientology's communal dining halls and sometimes gets out to Domenic's Capri Italian Restaurant on Clearwater Beach.

He goes to movies, enjoys trail biking in Hillsborough County, and has been known to ride a water scooter.

He said he also plays piano, takes underwater photographs, reads several books a week, exercises daily and keeps a casual eye on his hometown sports teams from Philadelphia.

He communicates with most Scientologists through church publications, and through gala events that reflect his interest in audio-visual effects and the performing arts.

The events, which are taped and sent around the world, have several trademark elements: Texas-size stages; grandiose props; laser shows; pulsating music; an audience of upbeat Scientologists and a super-size photo of L. Ron Hubbard.

Capt. David Miscavige, smartly dressed in a tuxedo or the blue- and-gold uniform of the Sea Organization, plays the confident emcee with lots of good news about Scientology.

At the end of the night, he may flash a thumbs-up or briefly soak in the applause. And he will turn and look up to his mentor's huge visage and clap, leading the flock in a traditional Scientology chant.

"Hip hip hooray! Hip hip hooray! Hip hip hooray!"

It is Hubbard, after all, whose words Miscavige will heed as he tries to improve Scientology's standing in Clearwater and around the world. Ten of them are inscribed on his boardroom wall.

"Ideas and not battles mark the forward progress of mankind."