Since 1973, Claude Vorhilon has convinced 60,000 international followers he is the son of a French mother and an alien god, that Jesus is his brother and that he is a prophet the likes of which the world has not seen since Moses and Mohammed.
Yesterday, he tried to convince a judge.
Vorhilon, the 58-year-old leader of the Raelian sect, testified under oath in Quebec Superior Court as part of a libel suit against the Ottawa French-language daily newspaper Le Droit.
A self-styled prophet who also goes by the name Rael, Vorhilon is seeking $85,000 from Le Droit and its columnist Denis Gratton for an article published in January 2003 that he said "unjustly attacked his reputation."
"If you called Jesus a swindler and a liar, it would never be printed," Vorhilon told Justice Maurice Laramee.
But the defamation lawsuit is part of a greater legal quest by the Raelians for legitimacy.
This month, the Raelians also filed suits against the Journal de Montreal, La Presse and Radio-Canada for routinely casting aspersions on their belief system and their leader.
The Raelians not only want a ban on future negative reports, but a declaration by the court that their faith is a true religion and must be referred to as such in media coverage.
Lawyers for Le Droit contend the remarks were fair comment.
The Raelians have come under fire in the past for being a cult, for their sensual meditation practices - essentially "discovering" one's body naked in a room full of other converts with a mirror - and for their promotion of human cloning.
Proselytizing from the witness stand yesterday, Vorhilon explained that as an aspiring race-car driver in France, he was visited twice - in 1973 and 1975 - by an alien god who later revealed himself to be his father.
Vorhilon said he was told an extraterrestrial race called the Elohim created human life in a laboratory in Jerusalem millennia ago and their technological achievements are documented in the Bible as perceived at the time through primitive eyes.
While visiting their planet, Vorhilon said, he was cloned (although his double was destroyed because only one "model" of each human can exist at a time) and he had sex with female robots, or synthetic humans fashioned by the Elohim.
Vorhilon said his religion is entirely based on science.
"Every week science confirms what they told me," he said.
While he doesn't expect everyone to buy his message, Vorhilon said he deserves a little respect.
"To be insulted or to have my dignity attacked, personally, it doesn't bother me," he said. "But insulting me is insulting all the followers of this religion."
Vorhilon's testimony resumes today.