Monday, September 12, 2011

House of Worship or House of Ill Repute?

This is pretty wild stuff.  CNN reports that a church called the Phoenix Goddess Temple has been the subject of a 6-month undercover investigation for operating as a secret brothel.  So far, 20 male and female employees have been arrested and 17 others are being sought.  Those arrested have been arrested for prostitution and various other schemes.  Those arrested were providing "neo tantric" healing therapies for church members.  Those church practitioners would perform sex acts in exchange for monetary donations.  The church managed to generate "tens of thousands of dollars" a month.  My own church is lucky if it collects $10,000 in tithes in a single quarter!

Predictably, the Phoenix Goddess Temple employees are arguing that their neo tantric healing therapies aren't acts of prostitution, but instead religious acts.  Phoenix police dispute that:
"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," (Sgt. Steve) Martos said. "We certainly respect First Amendment rights. However, religious freedom does not allow for criminal acts," Martos said.

Regarding the Goddess Temple's website, he said: "What they would talk about would seem to be religion. At the same time, they were implying or intimating that they were giving sex therapy." The website says at one point: "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.
Frankly, I see both sides. Looking at some of the materials, it looks like a brothel. Looking at most of the website and services and language, it looks like a church. Maybe not a Christian church; but not all religions are Christian and many of the religions that predate Christianity practiced stuff like this form of temple worship.

People in this country are quick to promote the religious liberties of others.  Some even go so far as to promote civil disobedience against laws that protect gay people and our families.  But usually they're only interested in protecting their own religious liberties.  The same Christians who want their rite protected won't think twice about ignoring denominations like my own United Church of Christ that actually support and honor both opposite- and same-sex families.

I'm not certain how legitimate Phoenix Goddess Temple is as an actual Goddess Temple as opposed to a closet brothel, but I want to learn if they're legit or not.  And, if they are, I want religious libertarians to stand up for this church and its practitioners.

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