Laying Hands Upon: Pittsburgh Debates Whether “Spiritual Palace” is Really Swinger’s Club

This could make for an interesting constitutional challenge in Pittsburgh. John and Kim Ondrik insist that they are running a church out of their home, which they call the Spiritual Palace of the Church for Spiritual Humanism. Their neighbors call it a swingers club.

The Ondrik allegedly charge for admission to their church but allow single women to enter for free. Rev. John and this wife are fighting for a variance that is commonly granted to home churches. Local officials say it is nothing more than a raunchy business disguised as a church. Yet, their attorney insists that visitors are only asked for a donation to the church and are not charged for the Midnight masses that have attracted the most controversy.

Yet, critics insist that (before it was taken down) the Web site showed that couples were charged an admission of $50 while single men had to pay $75. Single women could enter free. They also have statements from past visitors who insisted that he had to pay to enter. “Dave” said that he was actually put off by the religious stuff that he heard and simply want to “swing.” Yet, he said that there was no traditional preaching or pews etc.

What is interesting is the position laid out by the officials. Assuming that the Ondrik’s only requested donations and made clear the religious basis for their ceremonies, would orgies and sexual encounters then be deemed a religious practice? Could “ministers” receive salaries for such acts? Sex between consenting adults is legal and the city would have to get a court to rule that such faiths are not bona fide religions.

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10 thoughts on “Laying Hands Upon: Pittsburgh Debates Whether “Spiritual Palace” is Really Swinger’s Club”

  1. Answer at your own risk Professor. 🙂 Do you think they’d trade a mandatory vote for Turley Blog from every new member that signs up to their site for a link? 🙂

    Vulnavia = Plato’s Retreat, a swinger site: “Warning! you are about to experience your wildest dreams, sexual fantasies and the
    ultimate pleasure of ecstasy.” LOL.

  2. If you really want to have fun, try a Jeffersonian “Sect of One”.

    A little less extreme, a lot of very legitimate groups have problems meeting these criteria. Homeless missions ideally do not have regular congregations — they want to get the people housed. Quakers don’t have ordained ministers — anyone can be moved by the Holy Spirit. Buddhism by itself is godless, so what does ‘ordained minister’ mean in this context? (Some traditions are admixtures with other religions so they do have something comparable to ordained ministers.) It’s a complex problem even before you bring in Scientology.

    Re: swingers club info. I read a lot. Websites, in particular. You can learn the most amazing things by hanging out around disreputable corners of the internet and checking out the ‘About Us’ pages.

  3. Jill,
    I am thinking that I am going start my own church. I will call it the Church of the Holy Liberals! Do you think the IRS will allow that one to fly? How about if Karl Rove is a member??

  4. I was sidetracked by this really sleezy site while looking up IRS info.

    “If you’ve determined that it’s your calling to start a church, understand that there’s so much more to the process than becoming an ordained minister and opening the doors to a congregation. While it’s important to emphasize the spiritual health and direction of your ministry, the business and legal aspects are also important.

    The Internal Revenue Service has established certain tax law criteria in order to determine if a church applicant should be recognized as a church and therefore, tax exempt. For example, church tax law states that the church should be an established entity with a regular congregation (check), an organization of ordained ministers (well, not so much), and a place or places of worship (check), to name a few criteria.”
    (from start your own church)

  5. “Unlike other exempt organizations or businesses, a
    church is not required to withhold income tax from the
    compensation that it pays to its duly ordained, commis­
    sioned, or licensed ministers for performing services in
    the exercise of their ministry.” (from the IRS) So I would say these ministers could receive a salary for their services.

    I’m going to look up what constitutes a church in the eyes of the IRS.


    You seem very knowledgable concerning swinger clubs:) I always like to read your posts!

  6. For that matter, why would should it be illegal to run a swinger’s club? I’ll grant you the zoning issue — neighbors in a residential area probably don’t want traffic and parking issues at midnight. But the general idea of a place for people to meet for consensual casual sex? Even if there’s a cover charge?

    BTW I think most swinger’s clubs don’t accept single men. They’re either private clubs (and don’t trigger public accomodation issues) or they’ll have a pro forma policy like allowing anyone in on the third Thursday of the month. This would argue that the church isn’t a swingers club if they always accept single guys.

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