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Woman Tells Court She Performed Sex Acts for Religious Reasons

Times Staff Writer

A Canyon Country woman facing prostitution charges denied Wednesday that she exchanged sex for money, maintaining instead that she performed sex acts with hundreds of men as part of her duties as a priestess of an ancient Egyptian religion.

Mary Ellen Tracy, self-proclaimed high priestess of the Church of the Most High Goddess, said sexual acts are an integral part of her religion as a “path to the divine.” But Los Angeles police and Deputy City Atty. George R. Lomeli contend that the church is a front for prostitution because the men participating in the church are required to make donations--Tracy called them sacrifices--to take part in the sexual rituals.

Tracy, 46, faces one charge of operating a house of ill fame and two charges of prostitution. Her husband, Will Tracy, 51, is being tried on one count of operating a house of ill fame. All the charges are misdemeanors.

The Tracys, who live in Canyon Country, were arrested by vice officers in April at a West Los Angeles house, which serves as the church’s headquarters.

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In testimony in Los Angeles Municipal Court, Will Tracy said the donations do not amount to payment for prostitution because they symbolize a man’s belief and dedication to the church. He said the religion dates back to Egypt 52 centuries ago, and he revived it after receiving a revelation from God in 1984.

Mary Ellen Tracy testified that she has long been religious and belonged to the Catholic and Mormon churches before assuming the role of high priestess at her husband’s urging five years ago. “Ever since I can remember, I wanted to know God,” she said.

Like her husband, she experienced a divine revelation in which “I was overcome with a feeling of knowledge, light, power,” she said. In her religion, only women act as priests, and they absolve the sins of men through sexual rites, Tracy said.

Her usual religious garb consists of a red sequin strapless dress, black fishnet stockings and black high heels. She has worn the outfit during numerous appearances on television talk shows since her arrest. But on the witness stand Wednesday, she wore a demure white cotton dress.

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Dr. Alvin E. Davis, a psychiatrist who evaluated Mary Ellen Tracy at the request of her public defender, said the Tracys are apparently devout. “She believed what she was saying,” he said of his four hours of interviews with Tracy.

But Davis also said Tracy was a passive person, dependent on her husband, who drove her to participate in the sex rituals. He said she suffers from an “induced psychotic disorder” caused by her husband’s religious delusions.

While belief in religious revelations is not in itself a sign of psychiatric disorder, Mary Ellen Tracy’s religious beliefs are “far removed from reality,” Davis said. He noted, for example, that--following what her husband said were instructions received from God--Tracy had to have sex with 1,000 men as a condition of assuming the title of high priestess.

“It is bizarre,” he said.

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The prosecution and defense rested Wednesday after three days of testimony. Judge Marion L. Obera said the jury will begin deliberations today.


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