Sun Media reporter Brigitte Mccann and photographer Chantal Poirier infiltrated the Raelians over a nine-month period and have put to paper the inside story of this bizarre sect.
Saying he works for free, the man known to his followers as Rael takes advantage of the annual “awakening” seminar staged in Maricourt to empty his disciples’ pockets.
On Thursday, July 17, we witnessed a talent show attended by roughly 400 Raelians. The show turned into an auction intended to help Rael in his mission.
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On the large stage, three photos taken by the 57-year-old guru are put up for auction.
The subject: Sophie Lemieux, his Raelian wife of 28 years, appearing topless in suggestive poses.
Followers are expected to spare no expense for their prophet.
“He has no salary, you know,” seminar leader Gerard Jeandupeux repeats to the crowd.
Following a short succession of bids, a journalist for the movement’s magazine purchases the first photograph for $900.
Far from happy, the leader urges followers to show more generosity, reminding them their prophet did not ask to be vested with such an important mission.
His message is heard loud and clear. One of Rael’s volunteer bodyguards purchases the second photo, presenting a generous view of Sophie’s breasts, for $3,300!
His expression speaks volumes on the hole in his budget.
After a battle of bids between three Raelians, the third photo is finally swept up for $5,000.
According to Rael, it was acquired by a guide with cancer who doctors say has only six months to live. Rael has just raked in $9,200 in a half-hour.
A week later, Raelian guide Nicole Bertrand, a close friend of the prophet, bluntly requests that the followers offer “love notes” to “take care” of their guru.
“Loving is giving and expecting nothing in return,” she says. “You will be given the opportunity to show him how much you appreciate him, to treat him without expecting anything in return. Money is love, if that’s what you do with it.”
Her message targets everyone, no exceptions.
“Every one of you will have the opportunity to show, to the extent of your capabilities, how much you love him,” she insists.
“These are love notes, don’t you ever forget it, every time you offer a 100-dollar bill.”
The members must place the money in straw hats held out by Rael’s Angels, pretty young women at his service. Escaping is impossible — at least two scantily-clad Angels are posted at every exit.
Claude Vorilhon (Rael) can claim high and low that the media attention created by human cloning has brought him a multitude of new disciples, but contributions to his cult are down.
Vorilhon admitted that fact himself, behind closed doors, during a presentation of the movement’s financial statements for year 57 of the Raelian calendar, which stretches from July 1, 2002, to June 30, 2003.
“Put your pens and paper away!” Rael cries to the assembly.
“None of what you will hear must leave this room.”
The movement’s annual dues collected worldwide are established at $1.8 million, which represents an 11% drop compared to the preceding year.
“But it doesn’t matter,” the guru adds hastily before changing the subject.
$13M IN ASSETS
Asian countries alone have apparently contributed $600,000, 27% less than the year before.
One Japanese woman donated $57,000.
Canada ranks among the 10 most generous countries, with donations of $202,000, offered in large part by Quebec members, Vorilhon says.
The U.S. ($105,000), Belgium, Holland, Switzerland, and France are also included on the Top-10 list.
The guru contends that the movement pocketed a 20% profit on its investments in the stock market.
He mentions an amount of $13 million “in assets.”
• • • • •
WALLET GETS WORKOUT IN UFOLAND
Becoming a Raelian doesn’t come cheap. It cost me more than $2,000 and I only spent the strict minimum.
For starters, there’s the annual dues to the national movement, which represent 3% of a member’s take-home pay. I chose the student rate and sent $100 to a post office box.
That was just the beginning.
Like all self-respecting Raelians, I had to purchase a medal presenting “the symbol of the infinite,” a stylized star that identifies the movement. Once again, I chose the cheapest model: $88. Rather expensive for a piece of mass-produced oxidized-silver jewelry.
The most extravagant model, crafted in gold, costs $900, and to my surprise, I noticed the chain isn’t supplied with the medal — another $36. I also bought a few “essential” books, as well as videos to study the guru’s “teachings” at home. Cost: $105.
My wallet opened at every turn: Collections to pay for the hall, cloakroom and parking fees, and the cost of the group meals.
The cost of attending the event of the year, the annual two-week “awakening” seminar, is so outrageous some Raelians can’t afford it.
To attend, I had to become a member of the international movement at the cost of 7% of my take-home pay.
I sent a cheque for only $200 — the “minimum” amount reserved for students and the unemployed.
I also paid $145, not including the cost of my equipment, to register for the seminar and rent a camping space “with water and power.”
Once there, I found my camping space had neither water nor electricity.
The jellaba cloak, mandatory for anyone who hopes to attend the courses, consisted of an ordinary white, cotton sheet at a cost of $20.
After a workshop, a close friend of Rael urged me to buy a tape of the prophet’s “sensual meditation” session so I could practise at home.
I found it at the movement’s shop — a boxed set of two CDs for $140! The cassettes would have cost me even more: $200.
Disgusted, I ended up ignoring the collection organized to “take care” of the guru.
• • • • •
RAELIAN ‘HEADS WILL ROLL’ THANKS TO SUN SERIES
The Raelians, who welcomed worldwide attention earlier this year for its human cloning claims, are protesting their latest turn in the media spotlight.
And cult experts say Sun Media’s series, in which two journalists infiltrated the Raelians, will shake up the organization.
“Those higher in the (Raelian) structure will be demoted for not catching spies. Heads will roll,” said Dr. Sam Klarreich, a cult specialist with the Ontario Psychological Association.
“Their goals will be stalled. You can’t just step in and take over a high position. You have to earn the right.”
The Quebec-based atheist religion, headed by former journalist and race car driver Claude Vorilhon — who is known as Rael — believes humans were cloned by aliens.
The Sun articles revealed some disciples say they are ready to die for Vorilhon, who believes there are governments planning his assassination, and women in the cult are prepared to offer their eggs to help the cult’s cloning program launch new experiments.
The reporters also uncovered bizarre “sensual meditation” sessions.
“Our members aren’t forced to do anything,” Raelian Bishop Ricky Lee said Oct. 9.
Sun Media’s series has attracted international attention, with reporters Brigitte McCann and Chantal Poirier appearing last night on CNN.
The Raelian movement became front-page news last December with claims its scientists would soon deliver the first human clone within weeks. No proof was ever furnished and the Raelians have made fun of the media that gave the cult so much free publicity.
But not all publicity is good publicity, admits Lee, adding his organization is considering a lawsuit because of the series.
“(The reporters) were deceitful (about joining) and printed lies to sell a story,” said Lee, who wouldn’t comment on whether the Raelians used similar tactics to get publicity with the cloned baby story.
The articles will hurt the cult in recruiting new members, said Steve Hassan, a former Moonie who now helps deprogram cult members with the Boston-based organization Freedom of Thought.