Ron Miscavige, who defected from the Church of Scientology and became a leading opponent from outside the organization run by his son, has died. Miscavige, 85, died Monday after suffering from health problems including cancer for years, the Tampa Bay Times reports. He introduced his son David to Scientology when he was a boy and was pleased at first when he began running the church after the death of L. Ron Hubbard in 1986. In time, however, Miscavige decided his son had made Scientology "manipulative, coercive and, in my mind, evil." He left the church in 2012 and took the feud with his son public in 2016 with the publication of Ruthless: Scientology, My Son David Miscavige and Me. In response, the church set up a website on which it blasted Ron Miscavige as an abuser—he wrote that he had hit his wife during arguments—trying "to make money on the name of his famous son."
Although the church says Scientology brings families closer, it also has a practice of forced estrangement, called disconnection, and Miscavige had accused his son of tearing families apart. "His real purpose was to raise awareness so other people wouldn't have to go through what we’ve gone through, losing your whole family and your family turning against you," said his wife, Becky. At the end of his life, Ron Miscavige was in touch with only one of his four children; the other three were involved in the church. A friend set up a GoFundMe page to raise money for the funeral, per the Sun. "When Scientology destroyed his family, perhaps the most important thing in the world to him, they created a formidable foe who devoted his life to exposing and undoing the evils of Scientology, especially the destructive practice of disconnection," said Mike Rinder, a former executive in the church. Scientology, Ron Miscavige said, is "a cult, pure and simple." (Read more obituary stories.)