PHOENIX - After being arrested and accused of prostitution, Alex Averill defended himself and his church after police said nearly 40 members of Phoenix Goddess Temple ran an organized prostitution ring out of the church.
“Our church honors and believes in the energetics of our body,” Averill said.
But Phoenix police call the church a brothel in disguise.
"I wasn't concerned with prostitution law," said Holly Alsop, one of the women arrested. "I was concerned with the right to practice my religion."
Investigators arrested 20 members so far, most face prostitution related charges .
"Come in and get a healing," said Amanda Twitty, who was also arrested. "Decide for yourself if you're paying for prostitution."
The women tend to describe any sexual contact that might occur inside the temple as a sort of spiritual gift to help comfort others.
“It's really frustrating and sad to see what things have come down to,” Averill said.
Averill tells ABC15 he's not a prostitute and instead claims the sessions he had with clients were for healing purposes and part of his religious practices.
When asked if he accepted money for sex Averill said, “Never. Not once.”
Instead, he claimed his clients could leave money if they wanted to.
“I do not charge for sex. I work off of donations. I work off of what people can leave me as an offering,” he said.
Averill said he would ask for $200 for a one hour session, $400 for two hours, but he would not talk about what the donations were for.
“I'm not discussing anything that does happen in those sessions,” said Averill.
Despite being arrested, Averill said if he's released he would continue with his practice.
“'Til the day I'm dead and after that because my faith believes in eternal life.”
For now, police say he'll have to put his faith in the justice system.
The "healers" told ABC15 that they are hoping the general public will offer money to help them bond out of jail.
Copyright 2011 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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