'Go Topless Day' Coverage Easy Publicity for Bizarre Raelian UFO Cult

San Francisco Weekly/August 23, 2010

Admit it, you looked. Who wouldn't? A bevy of topless women, and men in bikini tops illustrating the oddities of forcing women to cover up -- that gets people's attention, even in San Francisco.

That's just what cult leader Claude Vorilhan - aka Rael - is counting on. He and his followers have often taken extreme, publicity-grabbing steps to bring attention to their raison d'être: Claiming that humans are the creation of UFO-riding aliens from outer space, and Rael has been tasked with spreading their message and preparing an "embassy" for their return.

"Claude Vorilhan will get his people to do whatever it takes to get him in the paper," says Rick Ross, a natinally recognized expert on cults. "You know who they remind me of? The Westboro Baptist Church. They would picket George Washington if he were alive to get their names in the paper. Their leader [Rael] is a press report junkie."

You may recall the Raelians claiming in 2002 that their group had cloned a human being -- and getting boatloads of publicity as a result. That claim, not surprisingly, was never backed up.

The Raelians have also worked to fund-raise for an embassy in Jerusalem for our alien creators. That sounds like a hard sell -- so, enter boobs.

"This guy is, in my opinion, a cult leader," says Ross of Rael. "He has this group of people who'll do anything to please him and believe he was taken into outer space and is the spokesperson for the higher powers of the universe." (Rael, incidentally, also claims to be an excellent race car driver. And one of the world's best at the online game Live for Speed.)

Coverage of Go Topless Day in the Chronicle mentioned the Raelians' bizarre beliefs in one paragraph, midway through the story. Today's morning news TV coverage hasn't mentioned it at all.

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