“The body is sacred,” the defendant’s son said. “That may include the genitals. In fact, I’m pretty sure it does.”
David Moye, Reporter, The Huffingnton Post
Tracy Elise claims her Phoenix Goddess Temple is a church where seekers of wisdom could learn and experience “sacred sexuality.”
An Arizona jury felt otherwise.
On Wednesday, Elise was convicted of 22 charges, including maintaining a house of prostitution, money laundering and pandering, according to AZCentral.
Elise represented herself through a four-month-long trial, arguing she was a priestess, not a prostitute and that the money from customers were donations, not fees for services rendered, according to the Associated Press.
Tracy Elise, the leader of the Phoenix Goddess Temple in Arizona, has been convicted of running a house of prostitution. She has maintained that it’s a church.
Elise’s son, Ben Wade, maintains his mother and the temple are victims of a statute that doesn’t recognize religious enlightenment comes in all forms.
“The statute said, ‘No, you cannot touch genitals.’ To us, our religion and our belief, the body is the temple,” Wade told AZCentral after his mom’s conviction. “The body is sacred. That may include the genitals. In fact, I’m pretty sure it does.”
Some of the rituals involving that sacred temple are described in some detail below.
The alleged erotic activities at the Goddess Temple came to light in February 2011, when the Phoenix New Times reported about the church’s “services,” including genital touching in exchange for “religious offerings” ranging from $204 to $650.
The newspaper went into detail about one session with a “goddess” named “Aphrodite”:
About 40 minutes into the session, Clayton turns over on his back. He doesn’t have an erection. Aphrodite proposes a prostate massage. She puts on a “finger condom” and inserts a finger into his anus, while simultaneously gripping and stroking his penis.
Five minutes of this, and Clayton’s whole body starts shaking. He lets out several loud moans, and Aphrodite cleans him up with a wet towel.
Elise and 17 other members of the Phoenix Goddess Temple were indicted seven months later in September after a police raid.
On Thursday, Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery told AZCentral the Temple “was no more a church than Cuba is Fantasy Island.”
He added: “Accepting money for sex is against the law.”
Elise was shaken after the jury verdict, according to the Phoenix New Times.
“Your honor, I obviously didn’t expect this,” she said to Judge Sherry K. Stephens after the jury was led out of the courtroom. “This was a complex case, and there were many things the jury didn’t get to hear or see.”
Elise is due to be sentenced April 8. She faces up to 70 years behind bars, according to the New York Daily News.
After her conviction, Elise vowed on Facebook to continue appealing the verdict on grounds of religious freedom.