Raelians advocate cloning and believe aliens created life on Earth. They addressed a small Tampa audience.
St. Petersburg Times, Feb. 19, 2003
By BRADY DENNIS, Times Staff Writer
TAMPA — Well past 7 p.m. Tuesday, and still the Raelians are waiting for an audience.
They’ve made the small Best Western conference room cozy. Soothing music spills from a JVC stereo.
Books in English, Spanish and French — bearing titles such as Let’s Welcome Our Fathers From Space, The Message Given By Extra-Terrestrials and Yes to Human Cloning — lie beside a donation box atop a table covered in gold cloth.
A VCR sits loaded, ready to play two videos — one showing footage of UFO sightings and another ensuring viewers that one day “our parents from space will come.”
Past 7:30 p.m. now, and still they wait for someone, anyone. “We wait until 8, then we go party,” says Lisa Lumiere, who, like the other members, wears a gold, six-pointed star pendant that “symbolizes infinity.”
Raelians are atheists who believe that aliens created all life on Earth and view human cloning as a means of immortality.
The group was founded by Claude Vorilhon, a.k.a. Rael, a French-born journalist and race car driver who claims to have met with 4-foot-tall aliens near a dormant volcano in France in 1973.
Raelians drew attention in December when Clonaid, the company owned by Vorilhon, announced that the first human clone, named Eve, was born by Caesarian section to a 31-year-old American woman. No evidence was provided.
The company later announced that a second cloned baby was born to a Dutch lesbian couple, but again provided no evidence.
The six Raelians inside the Best Western on Tuesday, all wearing perpetual smiles, talk mostly about the joy the sect has brought them.
“It’s very enlightening. It reminds you why we’re here,” says Cindi Polizzi, a marketing manager at Chase Manhattan in Tampa. Polizzi was raised Catholic but said she didn’t find true spiritual fulfillment until she happened across the Raelians while surfing the Internet 18 months ago.
Before long, she was visiting other Raelians on the East Coast and going to retreats in Canada. Like Polizzi, Mariehelene Parent, a Raelian priest who travels the East Coast, shrugs off the critics.
“Everything new is opposed at first,” says Parent, who envisions a world full of clones and free of disease, where robots relieve all humans of work. “But it will (all) be proven.”
At 7:40 p.m., an audience arrives: one man in blue jeans and a family of four staying at the hotel while on vacation from Minnesota.
The Raelians shake hands, show the videos, speak of the wonders of Rael. The man leaves later without a word. The family says thanks and calls it a night.
“I guess everybody has their opinions,” Kelly Wosika says in the lobby. Her husband, Dave, and children, 14-year-old Tracy and 11-year-old Ben, are practicing Lutherans who have been at Busch Gardens. “It seems they’re positive and creative and happy.”
Dave Wosika says he came to the meeting for a less noble reason than enlightenment.
“I didn’t want to go to (Ybor City), where she wanted to go shopping.”
Outside, at a tiki bar, people sip draft beer and watch ESPN. Children play around a pool.
Inside, their audience gone, the Raelians laugh and hug and, as usual, smile.
The books sit unsold. The donation box is empty. The soft music keeps playing.