The Man in the White Robes - 2003-01-04
Raelians say they worship hard, empirical science. Yet their bond — a belief that their prophet, Claude Vorilhon, or Rael, is the son of extraterrestrials who created humans via cloning — is a bizarre leap of faith. That paradox looks a lot less cute now as the Raelians claim — but refuse to prove — that they themselves have cloned a human, demanding that we all make a leap of faith about something far graver than little green men. "Given the clear dangers cloning poses," says veteran cult watcher Rick Ross of New Jersey, "this shows how willing Vorilhon is to step over the line in terms of exploiting people."
As religious sects go, the 30-year-old Raelian Movement had always seemed a harmless if publicity-grubbing alien cult preaching free love: E.T. meets Hugh Hefner. But in 1997, when Dolly the sheep was cloned, Vorilhon, 56, deemed it divine will that his group be at the front of the human replica race; and he urged Raelian bishop Brigitte Bessoiler, 46, a PhD chemist, to create the cloning firm Clonaid. "Everyone was speaking against human cloning, and I said, 'I have to help humanity overcome this,'" said Vorilhon, who lives near Montreal, Canada, in an interview with TIME in North Miami Beach, where he winters. "Cloning gives us the hope to be like the Elohim."