Raelian founder promotes his sect

Associated Press/January 21, 2003
By Phil Couvrette

Valcourt, Que. -- From the first sight of a futuristic, curving concrete building amid the barns and grain silos of southern Quebec farmland, something is off-beam.

Entering the headquarters of the Raelian religious sect, past a sign welcoming visitors to UFOland, is like strolling onto the set of a bad 1950s sci-fi movie, complete with a replica of the flying saucer that supposedly brought the space aliens who visited Rael, the sect founder. But the display lights don't work and inflated plastic pool seats make up the command post.

This is no theme park but the Canadian base of a group associated with Clonaid, which stunned the world with its Dec. 26 claim of having cloned a baby but has failed so far to provide proof.

Few believe the claim of Clonaid head Brigitte Boisselier and Rael readily acknowledges it may not have happened.

"If it's real, she deserves the Nobel Prize because she is making history and it's the most fantastic scientific advance in history of humanity," Rael said, sitting at a small plastic table with his book and a sign with his Web site address.

"If it's not true, she's also making history with one of the biggest hoaxes in history, so in both ways it's wonderful. Because, thanks to what she is doing now, the whole world knows about the Raelian movement. I am very happy with that."

A former race car driver and journalist named Claude Vorilhon, Rael wears a pointy-shouldered white outfit, a large silver medallion in the shape of a swirling Star of David around his neck.

With a greying, thin beard and mustache and hair pulled back into a ball, his face has a slight resemblance to the artist's rendition of the extraterrestrial named Yahweh who Rael says came by spacecraft to deliver a message to him on Dec. 13, 1973.

"We were the ones who made all life on Earth, you mistook us for gods, we were at the origin of your main religions," the messenger told Rael, according to his Web site at www.rael.org. "Now that you are mature enough to understand this, we would like to enter official contact through an embassy."

Despite such conditions for the one-hour interview as referring to him as "his holiness" and avoiding questions that make him repeat himself, Rael came across as calm and charismatic. He smiled and laughed frequently, gesturing gently with his hands.

No matter what subject came up, the answer always seemed to come back to attention for his sect.

Boisselier initially said she would provide DNA proof an unidentified American woman gave birth to a clone. After a Florida lawyer filed a court motion for the state to take custody of the baby, Boisselier said the parents decided against the DNA testing.

The parents have not been identified.

That caused universal dismissal of the cloning claim, though Boisselier says accusations of a huge publicity stunt were the product of prejudice.

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