David Miscavige joined the Church of Scientology at age 16 and has been its leader since 1987. Now, former top church officials have come forward to describe a culture of violence under Miscavige. For the full St. Petersburg Times special report on Scientology and David Miscavige, see Scientology: The Truth Rundown.
Here is a brief look at David Miscavige.
Born: Suburban Philadelphia
Joined Scientology: As a child, with his parents; joined Sea Org at age 16.
Family status: Married to Sea Org member Michelle Miscavige. They have no children.
Career highlights: The ecclesiastical leader of Scientology since 1987, when he became chairman of the board of the Religious Technology Center. The RTC is responsible for preserving, maintaining and protecting Scientology and ensuring that its practices hold true to the original "technology" set out by founder L. Ron Hubbard.
He dropped out of high school and joined Scientology staff in Clearwater, where among other jobs he delivered telexes and worked as a steward. In early 1977 he was sent to La Quinta, Calif., to work with Hubbard, who was making Scientology training films. By age 19, he headed the Commodore's Messenger Organization, responsible for sending out teams to investigate church problem areas.
One such area was the Guardian's Office, the church's intelligence and legal unit. Eleven of its members were convicted in 1979 for conspiring to steal government documents and cover it up. David Miscavige broke up the "GO." In 1982, Hubbard appointed him to manage his fortune through a corporate entity outside the Scientology umbrella.
After Hubbard died in 1986, David Miscavige rose to his current post by asserting himself over other church executives. From 1991 to 1993, he worked to get the IRS to restore the church's tax-exempt status.
Works primarily from Scientology's base outside Los Angeles and travels to church facilities worldwide, including its spiritual headquarters in Clearwater. Church officials say he is leading a "renaissance" with new releases of Hubbard's books and a major expansion program.
David Miscavige quote, from a 2004 speech: "While one can complain about the conditions we live in and it all can seem overwhelming, we take a different view that the most important commodity on Earth are people ... So, yes: We believe in human rights and are doing something to make them an everyday fact." Bios of Scientology officias who defected
Joined Scientology: At age 20, in 1977
Left Scientology: 2004
Family status: Divorced from Sea Org member Anne Joasem. They had no children.
Career highlights: A top lieutenant to David Miscavige. Key player in legal affairs unit. David Miscavige's "detail guy" during lengthy negotiations with IRS; among those who signed settlement agreement. Inspector general and board member of Religious Technology Center, church's top ecclesiastical authority. Says he audited Tom Cruise and other celebrities.
Now: Lives near Corpus Christi, Texas. Works as reporter for weekly and monthly newspapers. He counsels and audits people who have left Scientology, accepting whatever they choose to pay.
Quote: "I had my share of people that I slapped around too. I don't feel good about it. And I seek them out and I try to apologize where I can."
Watch Rathbun's interview at: tampabay.com/scientology
Joined Scientology: At age 5, when parents joined. Joined Sea Org at 18, in 1973.
Left Scientology: 2007
Family status: Divorced from Sea Org member Cathy Rinder. They have an adult son and daughter, both Sea Org members.
Career highlights: Head of Office of Special Affairs for 25 years, overseeing legal efforts, investigations and media relations. Became the public face of Scientology, doing countless interviews with TV and print reporters, many in Tampa Bay area. Was in first group of Scientologists to occupy Fort Harrison Hotel in late 1975. Became chief administrator in Clearwater from 1978 to 1981, then ascended to executive strata of international church.
Now: Sells cars in Denver.
Quote, on the church's contention that the defectors are plotting a coup:
"They are saying that just so they can position this for the Scientology public. ... If they can keep saying: This is an attempt to take over or overthrow, then it is going to gain traction with Scientologists. I have absolutely no intention of going back or taking over or anything. None. It's just a PR positioning."
Tom De Vocht
Joined Scientology: At age 10, in 1974, when mother joined.
Left Scientology: 2005
Family status: Divorced from Sea Org member Jennifer Linson. They had no children.
Career highlights: Supervised numerous church construction projects in downtown Clearwater and, in later years, at the church compound in California. From 1986 through 2000, had administrative authority over Clearwater operations. Started working full time for church at 14, as bellhop at Fort Harrison Hotel.
Now: Lives in Polk County. Buys and sells used furniture.
Quote: "I was at it for 28 years. ... That was my life. Those were my friends. ... I respect them. I still consider the vast majority of them my friends. I would love to hear from them. ... I've never really seen it (Scientology practices) do any harm to anybody. That's for damned sure. And I wouldn't have done it for all those years if I didn't think there was something good about it."
Born: Washington state
Joined Scientology: At age 14, in 1978
Left Scientology: 2005
Family status: Married to former Sea Org member Matt Pesch. They left the church together in 2005. They have no children.
Career highlights: Oversaw several operations sectors during 20 years as manager at the church's international base in California. Built the network of Scientology Celebrity Centres, assembling and training staff to match four-star service levels. Oversaw church's film and taping facilities. As teenager, managed kitchen, housekeeping and grounds crews in Clearwater.
Now: Lives in Seattle area. Buys and sells furniture.
Quote: "I never had a job ... No high school diploma because I started on staff when I was 14. I had no bank account, no driver's license.
I knew nothing of the outside world because I had been there for so long."