Renee beat the ‘kidney cult’ in court, but her own daughter testified against her

In a courtroom in September, Renee Spencer’s daughter, Ellie, appeared via video link from Mexico to give evidence that her mother worshipped the devil.

The pair had not seen each other in person since late 2019 because Spencer disapproved of Ellie’s decision to join a controversial group known as the Jesus Christians.

That disagreement eventually sparked a legal battle between Spencer and Dave McKay, the Melbourne-based leader of a religious sect sometimes described as the “kidney cult” for encouraging organ donation to strangers as an act of kindness.

Last week, Spencer was awarded $85,000 in damages over a video posted on the Jesus Christians’ YouTube channel that described her as a Satanist and “Luciferian”.

A County Court judge rejected McKay’s defences of truth and honest opinion that he believed Spencer worshipped the devil – an allegation that Spencer believes pushed her daughter further away.

At the trial, Spencer was cross-examined for several days by McKay, who was self-represented. She also sat through Ellie providing evidence against her.

It highlighted just how far their relationship had broken down and also the degree of control Spencer believes McKay wields over Ellie, who is aged in her 20s.

“That was hard,” Spencer said after the court’s decision was handed down. “She’s been convinced that her mum’s a Satanist. [McKay’s] defamation worked, my daughter believed it.”

During the trial, Ellie told the court that when she was younger, Spencer took her to a “witchy store” that had “full-on magical spells and potions and books on witchcraft and the supernatural”.

She also said her mother was “into things like Tarot cards and moons, so things like divinations, telling the future or telling things about yourself”.

There was also her mother’s interest in ancient Egypt, which she considered to have Satanic undertones. “There were a lot of occults and influences that, looking back now, that were Satanic and Luciferian in nature,” she said.

Ultimately, the judge rejected that evidence and all other material put by McKay in his efforts to demonstrate that Spencer was a fan of Satan.

“Nothing in the evidence establishes that Ms Spencer is a worshipper of the devil,” wrote Judge Julie Clayton.

The spark for the allegations of Satanism came from an email Spencer sent to Ellie in January 2020, soon after she left Australia for North America.

At first, Spencer said her daughter discussed an interest in a community called “A Ship In The Desert”, rather than its better-known – and more controversial – name, Jesus Christians.

Two months after joining in November 2017, she had married another member and taken a new name. She also sold all her possessions and donated the proceeds, as members are encouraged to do, as well as replacing her birth name with a new one: Ellie.

By the end of 2019, Ellie was partaking in a climate change-related hunger strike on the steps of Flinders Street Station.

At that point, Spencer believed her daughter had entered a cult and had begun to voice her concerns. It was this that brought her into conflict with McKay.

In a five-page email sent to Ellie in January 2020, Spencer wrote about her knowledge of religion and other spiritual beliefs, including “occult, esoteric traditions, ancient mysteries”.

She wrote about the intelligence of Lucifer, saying that he “exists in all of us” and is a catalyst for finding the true light of Christ.

Spencer believed the words were twisted out of context by McKay, making it seem like she was praising the devil when she was trying to call him deceptive.

“I’m not a Satanist. He was obviously always lying,” Spencer said.

McKay did not provide evidence during the trial because he refused to take an oath or affirmation.

“I can’t honestly tell you that I would say the whole truth and I don’t think the court wants to hear the whole truth,” he said.

Judge Clayton told McKay that he could not give evidence unless he read the oath. “I informed him … [it] was not a negotiation,” she said in her ruling.

When contacted by The Sunday Age, McKay said he would “appeal in a minute” if a lawyer would represent him pro bono.

“I was told by a judge who knew nothing of the facts of the case that trying to represent myself was virtually a guarantee that I would lose, regardless of the facts,” he said.

Spencer believes that proposed coercive control laws need to cover groups like Jesus Christians. “He has a phenomenal amount of control over them,” she said.

As for the damages, Spencer doesn’t expect to see much of the $85,000 that McKay has been ordered to pay. “Ultimately, it was never really about the money,” she said. “It was about holding him accountable.”

To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.


Educational DVDs and Videos