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How the beliefs of an exorcism-obsessed Australian church led to a deadly crash
Instead of telling a sick driver to see a doctor, Simon Tuteru prayed the demons away. Then the accident occurred.
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Mohinder Singh never should have been driving a truck on April 22, 2020. The Australian driver for Connect Logistics was high on drugs, hadn’t slept much, and claimed he was under the curse of a witch.
A decent boss would have prevented Singh from getting behind the wheel.
Instead, Singh’s boss, Simiona Tuteru, gave him the go-ahead. 46 minutes later, Singh veered off the highway and plowed into police officers who had pulled someone over for speeding, killing four of them. It was a devastating accident that made headlines across the country.
Singh was sentenced to jail in 2021, where he’ll spend the next 18 years.
Tuteru was initially charged with multiple counts of manslaughter himself, but he wasn’t sentenced. All the charges were inexplicably dropped by the Victorian Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) last year. That lack of punishment has been weighing on the victims’ families.
Now, an investigation by The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald and 60 Minutes Australia has discovered more about Tuteru’s religious history. Tuteru’s decision to let Singh drive the truck that night wasn’t just a poor management decision; it was a faith-based one. And the link comes while a different charge (failing to comply with duty under heavy vehicle laws) still hovers over Tuteru.
In short, what the public already knew before the investigation was that Tuteru (“Simon”) believed magical Christian incantations could overcome his driver’s medical problems. He placed his hands on Singh’s head that night and simply prayed for the witches to go away.
“While we were doing this Simon talked to me about witches and curses and how they worked,” Singh said. “After we did the search [of the car] and didn’t find anything, he placed his hand on my head and prayed — I don’t remember the exact words of the prayer but I do remember at the end of it he said ‘in Jesus name I cast the spell out of you’.
The exorcism was, not surprisingly, pointless.
What journalists now know is the link between Tuteru’s irrational actions and the church where he’s a longtime member, former missionary, and senior pastor. The Potter’s House Christian Fellowship is a cult-like fire-and-brimstone church that keeps congregation members inside a faith-based bubble in order to brainwash them with ease.
Television and non-Christian movies and music are banned for those who have active roles in the church, and those who leave are completely shunned by remaining members, tearing families and friends apart.
Those tactics are all too familiar to Jehovah’s Witnesses, who have also faced repercussions in Australia over their mishandling of child sexual abuse claims.
Former members of The Potter’s House say they were shielded from accurate medical advice. It’s routine to “heal” people by speaking in tongues and allegedly casting out demons rather than urging those with a sickness to see a trained professional. Everything is demonic. Everything is a prayer away from getting cured.
In the case of Singh, those religious delusions led Tuteru to put an impaired driver on the road because he believed God would shield Singh from any consequences. Four people were killed because of Tuteru’s faith-based incompetence.
One victim’s husband told reporters:
“I think it’s dangerous for the community. I think there are serious threats to people’s safety when people like that are making decisions that are affecting other people’s lives or their livelihoods or how they go about their work. I think that’s very dangerous.”
Even the church’s former leader David Vicary, who walked away from the church 15 years ago when he saw them getting even more extreme, said of members like Tuteru, “the longer they’re in the system, the more they drink the Kool-Aid.”
During a 30-minute segment on 60 Minutes Australia Sunday night, the show correctly highlighted the “bizarre beliefs” of the church—their words, not mine—and how those delusions contributed to the tragedy. Viewers saw a scene from a worship service, in which a woman with scoliosis (a curvature of the spine) was on stage getting “healed” by a pastor who blamed the problem on a “twisting spirit.”
In another scene, a former member went through a list of medical problems and their supposed causes. Bone spurs were blamed on a “hatred of husbands.” Back pain was the fault of “bitterness” and “rebellion.” Breast cancer is linked to “hatred of husbands,” “unforgiveness,” and “gossip.” Cervical cancer is the result of “promiscuity.” (All of those are obviously inaccurate.)
Given that The Potter’s House has 72 churches across Australia, there are countless members who may be in a position of authority like Tuteru was. How many more irresponsible, deadly decisions are waiting in the wings because these people blame problems on Satan—and believe those demons can be exorcised—instead of taking actual steps to solve them?
The bigger question is what culpability the church ought to have when it comes to the four deaths. That may be an ethical question more than a legal one.
Even beyond that, though, it’s incredible to see the church’s irrational beliefs highlighted on a national stage like this. 60 Minute Australia, unlike just about all major U.S.-based media outlets, didn’t treat this religion with kid gloves. Instead, they called out the bullshit and showed the harm the church has inflicted upon former members, while rightly linking the Christian batshittery to its real-world implications.
Faith isn’t a virtue and this church doesn’t deserve any unearned respect. It’s vital for journalists to call out this nonsense. There’s no need to be gentle just because these are sincerely held religious beliefs. By connecting the dots between the faith-based ignorance of some Christians and the senseless deaths that resulted from them, the public was better served.
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