Published September 10, 2011
More than 30 people have been indicted after Phoenix police raid a church that they say was being used as a house of prostitution, MyFoxPhoenix.com reports.
Police arrested 18 people during Wednesday's raid at the Phoenix Goddess Temple. So far, 33 people have been indicted, most of them are employees.
One of the accuses says he is a spiritual warrior and a healer at the temple where he works, MyFoxPhoenix.com reports.
"To be raided in my church ... it's really sad to see what things have come down to," said 23-year-old Alex Averill.
Averill is in jail, accused of selling himself for sex at the church.
"I say people call me what you will, but at my church, I'm labeled a practitioner. At my church, I'm labeled a shaman," he said.
Averill has been working for the Temple for a year.
"No, I do not charge for sex. I work off donations. I work off of what people can leave me as offerings," he said.
Averill, who goes by the name Zander, admits to charging more than $200 for an hour session. He says he's devoted himself to healing people, including overweight women who need to feel loved. He says he's blessed hundreds.
"Sometimes, people just need to be hugged for an hour and a half. Is there something incriminating about that?"
Averill says despite the charges against him, he'll continue to fight for his ministry.
"'Til the day I'm dead and after that because my faith believes in eternal life."
Several other inmates spoke out about the arrests.
"We're being wrongfully imprisoned and we did nothing wrong," says Jamie Baker. "We are a church and it is a religion."
Holly Alsop says, "I think it's religious persecution plain and simple."
"I came to Arizona because I believe in the practice. I believe in the separation of church and state. I'm mystified I can't believe that grand jury believes there is enough evidence to have us here," says Alsop.
Police say the investigation is ongoing and that more arrests could follow.