“Join Oklevueha Native American Church (ONAC) Mother Medicine Wheel and TAKE A STAND for the rights to teach, practice and learn the ancient ceremonies of the North and South American Continents.”

“The Earth-based religions celebrated at our Temples & Schools come from wisdom streams far older than Christianity. In a time of great disconnect from Nature and each other, ONAC has medicine that can truly heal!” -Team Goddess Bless

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Even after being sentenced to four and a half years in prison, founder of the Phoenix Goddess Temple, Tracy Elise, stands by her religious convictions. She says that her faith was the target of an attack by a Catholic D.A. and that she and her church have been nothing more than victims of a modern-day witch hunt.

In 2011, after a six-month investigation, Elise was placed under arrest. Her charges ranged from money laundering to running a house of prostitution. According to investigators, the Phoenix Goddess Temple was nothing more than a front for a new age brothel. By the end of the investigation, 39 additional suspects would be taken into custody.

The tenets of the church’s religious practices centered around sexual healing. According to one video Elise produced, she states that she believes that “sex is a prayer” and that sex is the most direct link to a higher power. Through Elise’s temples, worshipers were invited to get coconut oil massages by topless temple “goddesses,” which would continue on until the “seeker” orgasmed.

Though the sexual contact was consensual, these “seekers” were encouraged to leave a donation ranging from $200-$600 for a healing session. In the eyes of the law, the moment money exchanged hands the practice transformed itself from a religious ceremony into an act of exchanging sexual services for money.

At the time of the raid the church was nearly $60,000 in debt and early on in the case Elise was offered a plea deal where she would only serve three months in prison. It is clear that Ms. Elise did not realize that in the eyes of the law what she was doing was running an illegal enterprise and continues to believe in her teachings in spite of her conviction.

After her first guilty ruling she decided to take her case to Arizona’s supreme court. She was barred from defending her case on grounds of constitutionality, since those arguments were not traditionally reserved for cases of prostitution. Instead she had to defend her case the best she could by drawing comparisons between her case and historical examples of female persecution, as well as claiming her case was a conservative conspiracy against her belief practices.

In the end, she lost. Elise’s defense continues to work on appeals in her case. Since her arrest her case has drawn national attention and many religious freedom groups are standing with the Phoenix Goddess Temple in solidarity.

With all controversial cases of this nature, I like to ask readers their thoughts.

Should Tracy Elise be serving jail time or should she be exonerated based on her constitutional right to religious freedom?