UFO group leader vows to challenge U.S. cloning ban in court

Kyodo/August 3, 2001

Tokyo -- The leader of a Canada-based international UFO religious group that advocates human cloning vowed Friday to challenge in the U.S. Supreme Court a U.S. House of Representatives bill banning it if the measure becomes law.

The former French sports journalist who calls himself Rael hailed the bipartisan House bill, which was passed Tuesday and bans cloning for reproduction and medical research and makes it punishable by up to 10 years in prison, saying he and his International Raelian Movement are eager to mount a legal challenge.

''Now there is a law against human cloning, and I'm very happy,'' said Rael, who claims extraterrestrials created all life on Earth through genetic engineering and that cloning will lead to eternal life.

''We have a team of lawyers and we are going to the Supreme Court of the United States,'' he said. ''According to the most prominent law experts in the U.S. at the top universities, a law against human cloning is unconstitutional.''

Born in France in 1946 as Claude Vorilhon, the race-car driver and self-styled prophet claims 55,000 converts in 84 countries, with 5,500 in Japan being the largest following.

In 1997, Rael founded Clonaid, billing it as the world's first human-cloning company. Its director, French biochemist Brigitte Boisselier, caught the attention of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently when she claimed her staff was weeks away from being ready to clone a human being.

Weeks after Boisselier testified in March before the U.S. Congress that human cloning could be performed safely, the FDA reportedly ordered her to cease human cloning experiments at Clonaid's secret U.S. laboratory.

At the press conference on Friday, held to mark the publication of the Japanese version of his new book ''Yes to Human Cloning,'' Rael claimed Clonaid runs a second secret lab outside the U.S. and its cloning efforts are expected to yield a healthy baby ''soon.'' He refused to give any details.

While scientists have succeeded in cloning cows, goats and mice since Dolly the sheep was created near Edinburgh in 1997, human reproductive cloning has been banned in over a dozen countries, and opponents charge animal cloning has a success rate as low as 1%.

Rael, however, claims to have more than 100 female followers who are willing to become surrogate mothers to future clones. One woman, who the group identified as Natsuko Yoshikawa, a 26-year-old geisha, told reporters she believes cloning should be accepted as a new way to create life.

The leader said clones will be healthier than people born through sexual reproduction, and that the practice will eventually be developed into a process whereby people will be able to extend their lives by transferring their memories to various clones of themselves.

''You can live eternally through different bodies,'' he added. ''My mission is only to bring eternal life to human beings.''

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