An Arizona church known as the Phoenix Goddess Temple has been raided by the police leading to the arrest of about 20 men and women who worked their under the pretense of educating the believers about Egyptian tantric arts of Sacred Sensuality.
Police have charged the arrested 'erotic educators' with prostitution or other offenses, who performed sexual acts advertised as 'tantric healing therapies' in exchange for monetary donations to the Goddess Temple.
The 10,000-square-foot temple had been operating in Phoenix since 2009, but the authorities grew suspicious only six-months back when neighbors started complaining of illicit activities. The temple's website, advertisements posted on free classifieds site backpage.com and an article published in a Phoenix newspaper were factors which prompted the authorities to launch an undercover investigation.
They were committing crimes under the guise of religious freedom, Phoenix police spokesman Steve Martos said, according to a CNN report. It's a sad situation when people are trying to hide behind religion and church to commit a crime.
An ad posted on Sept. 5 in the adult section of Backpage.com, a temple 'worker' is named Sacred Loverand High Priestess Gypsy Iyata.
I invite you to Journey with me in the exploration of Sacred Sensuality, and magnetic Tantra, the advertisement says. When you enter my Chambers you are guided with pampering Love to experience all your sensations through Tantric full body to body exploration.
The advertisement was accompanied by erotic pictures of the temple goddesses along with their contact details.
The temple website, which has been taken down, had a post which said, 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.
The website also features unclothed women, listed as residing in several states, under a Goddesses section, according to a CNN report.
Freedom of religion does not allow individuals to trade sex for money, no matter how the transaction is portrayed, Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery said in a statement.
The alleged founder of the temple Tracy Elise, who is in her fifties and is popularly known as Mystic Mother, was arrested and charged with prostitution, illegal control of an enterprise, pandering, and operating a house of prostitution, police said. She has a alleged history of running similar brothels including one in Seattle, Washington, which authorities shut down in 2009.
Thirty-three people have been indicted excluding four people arrested during Wednesday's raid who were not named in the indictment.
The church is located near downtown Phoenix, and the temple also had an office and a house in Sedona.