David Miscavige's Father Ron Shares Details About His 'Escape' From Scientology: 'You Think You Can Just Walk Out? No'
04/30/2016 AT 09:25 AM EDT
While the estate is described as a sort of paradise, complete with immaculate facilities set on beautifully landscaped grounds, Ron, 80, the estranged father of Scientology's leader David Miscavige, told 20/20 in a new interview that he felt it was more like a prison. .
"I'm living on a compound…where your mail going out is read before it's seal[ed] and sent out, where before you get your mail, it's opened and read before you get it," he said in the special. "Phone calls – you're on the phone – somebody else is listening on an extension."
Ron also said that before his time at Gold Base, he was a member of the Sea Organization – the clergy of the church – where he suffered through an extreme workload, strict lifestyle and minimum sleep, which he eventually could no longer bear.
However, other members of the church, including a few of Ron's past bandmates said in video testimonials recorded by the church and sent to ABC News that Ron enjoyed a life of luxury, "was working with first-class musicians in one of the best studios in the world" and "had nothing to complain about."
Attorney for the church Monique Yinglang also disputed Ron's claims.
"If you talk to the staff, they'll tell you it's a worker's paradise. It couldn't be a better place to work," Yingling told 20/20. "These are people that have dedicated their lives to something they really believe in. They may work hard. They may work really long hours … but they enjoy it."
But Ron was adamant about the conditions he lived through, telling 20/20 that he and his wife spent months planning their exit from the compound.
He said the couple made their escape by convincing guards over time that he and Becky were just taking regular Sunday trips to a nearby music studio. The day they decided to leave, he eased out of the gate "so it wouldn't arouse suspicion." After making a left off the compound, he sped off.
"I knew we were free. I knew they couldn't catch us," Ron said. "It was an escape. You can't leave. You think you can just walk out? No. You will be stopped. I escaped."
Still, Yingling told 20/20 that Ron's claims were untrue as the estate "is not a prison," thus does not require an "escape."
"People can come and go as they please, and they do," she added.
After leaving, Ron and Becky spent three days on the road as they drove to her mother's house in Wisconsin. However, Ron admits in the interview that he still reached out to his son via letter, asking for money shortly afterward.
"In that letter, I said, 'Hey, listen, I spent a lot of years in the Sea Org, I couldn't live under those conditions, and I have very little money paid into social security. If you can give me some financial help, I would appreciate it,'" Ron said.
According to what Ron told 20/20, his son sent $100,000.
The church addressed Ron's accusations in a statement posted to their website:
"Ronald Miscavige is seeking to make money on the name of his famous son," the statement reads. "David Miscavige has taken care of his father throughout his life, both financially and by helping him in even the most dire circumstances.
"Ronald Miscavige was nowhere around when David Miscavige ascended to the leadership of the Church of Scientology, mentored by and working directly with the religion’s founder L. Ron Hubbard, and entrusted by him with the future of the Church.
"Any father exploiting his son in this manner is a sad exercise in betrayal."
Ron Miscavige is promoting his new memoir, Ruthless: Scientology, My Son David Miscavige, and Me, available in stores on May 3.