Extra-terrestrial worshippers the Raelians might have set themselves up to be debunked by making cloning claims that can be scientifically tested, cult expert Rick Ross says.
If a baby girl clone is born by the end of the year as claimed by Clonaid, a Las Vegas-based company linked to the Raelian Movement, Ross said impartial scientists will be lined up to put her under the microscope.
"Scientist are asking for the kind of scrutiny that would debunk any false claim," he said. "They will want proof."
Ross said Rael, once a French race car driver known as Claude Vorilhon, also claims he was contacted by an extra-terrestrial and has travelled in space and met Jesus.
"He has claimed many things. But when you make a claim that you've cloned a human, you better have your ducks in a row because scientists will want proof," he said.
Ross, a New Jersey-based cult expert who helped deprogram members of the Branch Davidian in the 1990s, said the Raelians are a personality-driven cult defined by a charismatic leader, just as those in Waco were driven by David Koresh. He said Raelians aren't planning mass suicides or stockpiling weapons, but Vorilhon has an insatiable appetite for publicity.
"If he isn't willing to allow access to substantiate his clone claims then it's a sham. The public will conclude it's just another Rael publicity stunt," Ross said.
But Diane Brisebois, 43, a Toronto Raelian leader, said any failure of Clonaid would not reflect badly on the movement.
"Rael gave them the idea, but it has nothing to do with the Raelian Church," Brisebois said.
Although the Raelian Church established Clonaid and cloning plays an important role in their beliefs, Brisebois said Rael handed over the project to Dr. Brigitte Boisselier, a Raelian bishop, who is now Clonaid's managing director.
"It's like a bishop in the Catholic Church having a business on the side. It's separate from the church," she said.
Brisebois said there are about 200 Raelians in Toronto and they meet once a month. She also acknowledged that the Raelian Church, which teaches that extra-terrestrials created humanity as a laboratory experiment, has been often mocked as a cult.
"What is a cult but a religion of others? The only way to discredit people is to ridicule them," she said.