Oh God! Oh God! Oh GOD!!! By the way, I’m also a cop.

A CHURCH in Sedona, Arizona, has been found, after a lengthy (!) undercover (!) investigation (!) to be a brothel.

The jokes just write themselves, don’t they?

During a Wednesday search of the Phoenix temple and two church-related sites in nearby Sedona, police seized evidence showing that “male and female ‘practitioners’ working at the Temple were performing sexual acts in exchange for monetary ‘donations,’ all on the pretense of providing ‘neo tantric’ healing therapies.

But I lived near Sedona for about 3 years, and spent a considerable amount of time there. Knowing Sedona even the little bit I do — the area is movingly beautiful, there are more art galleries per capita than anyplace on earth, and the level of woo-woo and alternative lifestyles there is extremely high — it’s totally believable to me that this IS an actual church. That they MEAN it.

Look at the Phoenix Goddess Temple website:

Sex is a holy, sacred and divine healing force at the core of our beings. Once we embrace this force instead of deny it, we become successful, happy and powerful manifestors.

Sgt. Steve Martos, a Phoenix police spokesman said

What’s unusual is that they were trying to hide behind religion or church, and under the guise of religious freedom, they were committing acts of prostitution. We certainly respect First Amendment rights. However, religious freedom does not allow for criminal acts.

I wonder if his department ever went after any of the other churches for criminal acts: conning people out of their money, abusing children, covering up the abuse of children, causing the deaths of children through lack of medical care, on and on. The ones caught are probably the tip of the iceberg.

I’m not a big fan of churches of ANY type, but if you’re going to allow people to worship freely, you can’t shut some people off just because they fall outside the curve of what YOU consider normal.

As long as none of the parties to the “ceremony” is suffering serious injury, I think they should allow it as a legitimate exercise of religious freedom.

As to exchanging money for sex, it’s one state line away from legal (in Nevada), and if it was immoral, half the people on Earth would be on a greased chute to hell.

The alleged brothel generated tens of thousands of dollars a month, Martos told CNN.

That sounds unworkably low, to me. I’ve talked to exotic dancers who have annual incomes well into 6 figures. And that’s just for DANCING. For an entire “brothel” to pull in “tens of thousands of dollars a month” … well, it doesn’t sound like a brothel at all.

It actually does sound like a church.


I’m interested in reader feedback:

Is prostitution ever a viable career choice for women (or men)?

Do you know anyone who has ever exchanged money for sex (either as payer or payee)? How did they feel about it?

Finally: There’s a petition you can sign to urge the Arizona governor to stop the prosecutions.

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  • http://www.updowncharmstrange.com Captain Quirk

    It really wouldn’t surprise me if this was legit.

  • Phledge

    As a former Pagan I can attest to the likelihood of this being completely, 100% legitimate practice of religion, of sexual congress as sacred communion. As a now atheist I find the prosecution of these people reprehensible. If only the Christian con artists and child abusers and marital rapists were treated equally!

    Prostitution is the culmination of the oppression of women, the vilification of sexuality, and the rape culture. Which is to say I don’t think it’s a viable career choice; rather, it is a survival mechanism for women with fewer options than others. I live in Nevada and I’m glad that we have legalized prostitution if only for the minimal protections it provides the women involved, but in a just society it wouldn’t exist.

    • ElCrabofAnger

      I don’t buy this: “Prostitution is the culmination of the oppression of women, the vilification of sexuality, and the rape culture. Which is to say I don’t think it’s a viable career choice; rather, it is a survival mechanism for women with fewer options than others.”

      Prostitution is a completely viable career choice for women in a just society. Also for men. Choosing to engage in consensual sexual activity with other people for money is not limited to women, you know. Nor is it the culmination of oppression of women; quite the opposite, so long as it is consensual. Moralistic lunatics have been telling us that women are vile whores for years, and that they are the cause of original sin and are going to hell. Do you buy into this? There is nothing wrong with enjoying sex. There is nothing wrong with the concept of selling things. Why can’t they be friends?

      I understand the basic fact of history that women get a bad deal. Women should not be raped, forced into prostitution or sex slavery, or have their right to sexual self determination taken from them by anyone, ever, for any reason. PERIOD. That includes the right to choose to engage in prostitution. The same goes for men (although men have it a lot easier).

  • mck9

    Arguably, prostitution should be legal, regulated, and taxed. However in most places, such as Sedona, it isn’t.

    Given that prostitution is illegal, I see no reason why religious organizations should get a free pass. It doesn’t matter whether the Phoenix Goddess Temple is a genuinely religious enterprise or just a thinly veiled brothel, nor do I trust any government to make that distinction anyway. The Temple is not entitled to flout the law just because it claims a religious purpose.

    As atheists we commonly object to the special privileges that more conventional religions insist on:

    – tax breaks and other forms of public subsidies.
    – exemption from the usual rules for non-discriminatory hiring practices.
    – the right to refuse medical services that conflict with sectarian doctrines.
    – exemption from regulation or inspection for church-based orphanages and schools.
    – wink-and-a-nod tolerance of sexual predators in the church.
    – the right to deny life-saving medical care to minor children.

    By the same principle, the Temple in Sedona is not entitled to any special privileges. Brothels should be legal for everyone or illegal for everyone, regardless of any claimed religious purpose.

  • Gordon

    I suspect this actually was a church, and a less harmful one than many others.

  • Cuttlefish

    My take: http://freethoughtblogs.com/cuttlefish/2011/09/10/this-is-my-body-you-eat/

    Pretty much the same questions you have–do cops allow a pass for churches on other matters? The notion of whether prostitution *should* be legal should be independent of whether a particular church engages in what the law considers prostitution; if the church gets to do it, so should others, and if no one does, neither does the (a) church.

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  • Glenn Bourdot

    Strange as it may seem, sexual energy is the primary way that humans connect with and FEEL the energy of Creation. For us Westerners so deeply influenced by puritanical Judeo-Christian traditions, this simple assertion sounds like woo-woo. By acknowledging that sexual energy is at the root of life (babies happen), we can begin to understand that sexuality itself is an art, even a spiritual practice. The gentle souls in barefeet and sarongs who were rounded up by the SWAT teams in Phoenix and Sedona practiced whole-body pleasure as a form of worship and meditation. Their service was to shine a light of acceptance on this big Energy of Life, and bear witness that such acceptance was not only a way to relax our obsession with sexual titillation, but also a direct approach to a relaxed body, an open heart and a peaceful mind.

  • http://www.laughinginpurgatory.com/ Andrew Hall

    I wonder what this faith’s jihad/crusades would look like. I’m guessing there would be less body bags and more happy people.

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