LAND O'LAKES — One of Clearwater's largest churches has been unwittingly drawn into the two-month-old feud between nudists and swingers at Caliente Resorts.
Caliente nudist homeowners want the club to stick to family values, but its managers are pushing ahead in marketing to a younger crowd, including swinger groups that engage in what critics call wife-swapping sex parties. Caliente pulled its affiliation last week with the American Association for Nude Recreation, two months after the association began an investigation into sexually charged parties at the club.
About two weeks ago, pastor John Lloyd of Countryside Christian Center, learned of a Web site claiming to represent an "Anti-Indecency Mission" of his church.
The Web site zoomed in on the "swinging lifestyle" at Caliente, and criticized it as "an immoral and deviant sex practice."
But its anonymous author took more space attacking Stan Antonuk, chief executive officer of Kowabunga!, a $35-million, publicly listed Clearwater-based Internet company that owns several online sex-related, including wife-swapping, businesses.
"Antonuk's business has gained particular local attention recently since members of the Caliente nudist resort complained about Antonuk promoting the 'swinging lifestyle' at the nudist resort," the author wrote.
Kowabunga! officials said Caliente had bought limited advertising on their sex-related Web sites in the past, like www.swappernet.com and www.eroticy.com, but said Antonuk was not a part of the decision to buy these Web sites and had nothing to do with the ads. The company's attorney said he believes a disgruntled former employee is behind the attacks.
Countryside Christian Center said it has nothing to do with the Anti-Indecency Mission.
"We don't have any idea who it is, but we are very concerned," John Lloyd, founder and pastor of Countryside, said Tuesday. "We've sent them messages saying they have no permission to use our name. We've got nothing back from them."
Lloyd said that the Web site, cccaim.blogspot.com, provided the church's physical address as its own. Its anonymous author also attacked various Tampa Bay area personalities for "indecency," including strip club owner Joe Redner, in blog entries that run alongside chunks of Bible quotes.
Lloyd said his church does not have an "anti-indecency mission." He contacted Clearwater police for help. He said his church was considering legal action.
"I don't even agree with what they're doing," Lloyd said, of the Web site's public criticism of Antonuk. "They're going to end up getting sued. What they are doing is illegal."
On Tuesday, when the St. Petersburg Times spoke to Lloyd, cccaim.blogspot.com still sported Countryside Christian Center's name and address. When the Times e-mailed the ''mission,'' it replied using the name of Countryside Christian Center attached to the e-mail address email@example.com. It repeated the accusations but ignored the Times' request for a direct interview.
But by Wednesday, the Web site had changed its name to the "Clearwater Christian Coalition Anti-Indecency Mission." It had also removed Countryside's physical address from the Web site's heading.
"We still don't know who it is," Lloyd said Thursday. "We think it's some people who thought they were doing a good thing. I hope it was that innocent."
Clearwater police spokeswoman Elizabeth Daly-Watts said one of the department's detectives had helped Countryside, but police found nothing criminal in its investigations. She suggested the church pursue charges in a civil court.
But Chief Assistant State Attorney Bruce Bartlett said that even if criminality was established, there would be a problem finding out who did it, because online identities were difficult to pin down.
Kowabunga! officials are also unhappy with the Web site.
Kowabunga! has been trying to sell its online sex businesses, according to a press release dated June 30. The company bought the sites in 2005; Antonuk was not the chief executive at the time.
Kowabunga! chief executive Antonuk referred questions to Vaughn Duff, the company's general counsel.
"Although swappernet and eroticy are a small part of Kowabunga!'s direct division, they are businesses that the company has been trying to divest for some time now, as previously announced by the company," said Duff. "Mr. Antonuk … has never taken any action to promote any activities of Caliente. Nor is he involved in the day-to-day management of the soon-to-be-sold online dating business. Caliente previously placed limited advertising on a dating division's Web site. The company currently has no relationship with Caliente or its activities."
Caliente spokeswoman Angye Fox said "swappernet has had some members come to Caliente, just like people from Aahz," referring to a swinger "lifestyle" party organizers. She said swappernet has no operational agreement with Caliente.
Caliente managers have acknowledged aggressively marketing to a younger demographic with more imaginatively "sexy" parties, but have never conceded to allowing active sex at the club's parties.
They say party areas are screened off and public displays of affection are banned in common areas of the club. The parties' organizers insist nothing "untoward" happens there.
Calling the anonymous accusations "slanderous," Duff said he believed a disgruntled former Kowabunga! employee was responsible. He said Kowabunga! has begun a push to identify the attacker.
The company's marketing director, Tanya Boggs, said the online dating businesses were acquired on a whim under a former chief executive, not Antonuk. She said the company's bread and butter lie in sophisticated click-through online advertising technologies.
"The other things are just nonsense," she said. "They are profitable, but we're looking to divest them. Somebody else can have them."
Chuin-Wei Yap can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 909-4613.