Friday, November 02, 2018

Free Exercise Defenses Rejected In Conviction of Temple Operator For Prostitution

In State of Arizona v. Elise, (AZ App., Nov. 1, 2018), an Arizona state appellate court upheld against free exercise defenses the conviction of the operator of the Phoenix Goddess Temple. Tracy Elise was convicted of money laundering, pandering, and operating the Temple as a house of prostitution.  The court rejected defendant's 1st Amendment defense, finding that the statutes under which defendant was convicted are neutral laws of general applicability.  It rejected defenses under the Arizona Free Exercise of Religion Act, finding that defendant "did not prove the sexual acts performed at the Temple were motivated by a religious belief, rather than for pecuniary gain."