Church suspected of being brothel deciding if 'religion' will be used as a defense

PHOENIX - The leader of the Phoenix Goddess Temple has until July 23 to decide if she and her attorney want to use religion as part of their defense, she said.

The Temple was shut down after Phoenix police arrested 20 members, accusing them of running a brothel inside the building.

During sessions and classes, sexuality is used as an educational tool, members said in September after the arrests.

The church insists it never demanded money from people, but accepted donations.

Earlier this week, the church's director of education accepted a plea deal.

If more people take plea deals, the church is going to lose, said James Mooney, the man who blessed the organization and sanctioned it as a Native American church.

"The allegations [the police] have put on them is stupid," Mooney told ABC15 during a Friday afternoon Skype interview. "They're a church."

Mooney said he believes the charges should be dismissed, citing the First Amendment and Freedom of Religion.

Police did not even have a right to be there, he said.

Phoenix police did a six month investigation before making any arrests.

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