David Miscavige: The Peacemaker
David Miscavige: The Peacemaker
"IF YOU WANT TO KNOW WHAT AN ULTIMATE GOAL WOULD BE, IT WOULD OF COURSE BE UTTER PEACE."-David Miscavige, St. Petersburg Times, 1998
“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.'”
With these words, S.P. Times reporter Tom Tobin closed his October 25, 1998, profile of David Miscavige, Chairman of the Board of Religious Technology Center, the Church body responsible for safeguarding the purity of the Scientology religion. The article, written by Tobin and edited by Joe Childs, dominated the front page and three interior pages of the Times. It described Mr. Miscavige as a peacemaker and chronicled his strides in resolving long-standing battles for the Church of Scientology, including those with the Times.
The fact that Mr. Miscavige chose the S.P. Times for his first-ever print interview was significant. A man who had been the subject of an Emmy-winning interview on ABC's Nightline and who heads a worldwide religious movement literally had the pick of any news organization in the world. But an issue was at stake of far greater importance to the leader of the Scientology religion than the selection of a media outlet:
"If you want to know what an ultimate goal would be, it would of course be utter peace. That's misconception one, that we like the war. That's misconception one."
Granting an interview to the Times was an important step toward bringing that peace to the entire community. Since 1975, the paper had written hundreds of derogatory articles about the Scientology religion, consistently pounding the Church, its members and leaders with vituperative rumor, innuendo and allegation, all of which resulted in a hostile environment for the Church with some residents and officials in Clearwater. Thus, Mr. Miscavige sought to dispel these false rumors by giving the Times broad and unfettered access to the Church, its facilities, its staff—and to himself. The reporters understood this and their story got it right:
"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."
Mr. Miscavige did keep his word. The reporters were invited for tours, interviews and photo sessions in Clearwater and at the Church's international dissemination center, Golden Era Productions, in Southern California. Mr. Miscavige answered extensive questions about his life, his work and the Church's activities. He tackled head-on the rumors that had dogged Scientology since the Church's arrival in Clearwater in 1975. And he told them he hoped the interview would open doors with the city of Clearwater. Tobin quoted him as saying:
"I do think we have to put the past behind us, and that's why I felt a dialogue should be opened. To take a bigger step."
In the decade since that article, Mr. Miscavige's promises for improved relations with the Clearwater community have come true. The Church resolved all outstanding conflicts with the city. Scientologists are active in many local charities and civic groups. They sit on development boards and arts councils. They are in every way contributing citizens of Clearwater, working to improve their community.
— David Miscavige,
St. Petersburg Times feature article, 1998
Throughout those years, the Church's doors continued to be open for Times staff. Church staff were always available to provide information and answer questions. And when the Church held its grand opening for the newly restored Fort Harrison in March 2009, Mr. Miscavige ensured that Joe Childs received a personal invitation and tour. And when the Church was contacted concerning the current series and the Times requested to interview Mr. Miscavige, he once again agreed. He not only agreed to be interviewed, he also insisted the Church provide Tobin and Childs full access to all Church facilities across the globe and that they be able to speak to anyone requested. By this, there was no question that Mr. Miscavige was going to work with Childs and Tobin to give them all information on the Church and a full view of what he has been engaged in.
This time, however, although he was again the central focus of their story, the reporters chose to rush into print without speaking to him, cancelling the interview because the story had already gone to print. They walked away from an interview with the very person who, they both knew, would have set the facts straight.
The door to the Church was wide open, but despite more than a decade of effort, the S.P. Times slammed it shut.