Patience, calm, luck and astuteness allowed our two reporters to collect photos and information over a period of nine months, without ever revealing their true identities.
To cover their tracks and infiltrate the Raelians, our reporters chose false names and rented a post office box to receive all Raelian correspondence.
They then invented occupations in areas that they could easily talk about without attracting attention.
Reporter Brigitte McCann opted for a job in a plant north of Montreal, which she visited prior to the investigation to get the feel of the place.
Photographer Chantal Poirier chose one of her old jobs in the restaurant business.
To register as members, the duo provided anonymous cellphone numbers.
Finally, the two women constructed a family histories for themselves, inventing as little as possible to avoid any blanks.
McCann launched the investigation alone in January. After a few meetings, she was invited to recruit new members in New York City in March.
Introduced as a recruit, Chantal joined Brigitte to assist in the investigation process and take exclusive photos. Constantly faced with the movement's rules and bans, the photographer used a variety of means to take photos, often using her colleague as a screen. The result - over 500 revealing clandestine photos.
During their two weeks camping out among the Raelians in Maricourt, Que., they had to hide a laptop under their inflatable mattress. Every day, they burned photos and text on a CD.
In order to avoid leaving anything on their computer, they would claim they needed a trip to the grocery store and would leave the CD with a shopkeeper in a nearby town who was in on the investigation.
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Claude Vorilhon, head of the worldwide Raelian movement, warns he's been targeted for death by the CIA and the French secret service for leading his dangerous "atheistic religion."
Sun Media reporter Brigitte McCann and photographer Chantal Poirier infiltrated the bizarre sect over a nine-month period and were put to the test of their loyalty
Constantly surrounded by bodyguards, Claude Vorilhon is convinced that he's the target of numerous assassination plots. The prophet known to his followers as Rael wants his disciples to share his paranoia that George Bush and Jacques Chirac themselves want his skin.
"There's a strong chance I'll be the next victim of an assassination attempt," proclaims Vorilhon in the weekly Contact magazine published for Raelian members.
"And the fact that we're talking about it here today is one of the means of trying to avoid it," he continues.
Vorilhon is a former race-car driver and journalist who created the Raelian Movement, which he calls "an atheistic religion," in 1973. He says he was visited by aliens in France who told him they were the "Elohim" mentioned in the Bible and had created the human race through cloning. Today his movement boasts 55,000 members in 84 countries.
Vorilhon claims the secret service of France and America's CIA have been trying to eliminate him because he's dangerous. The name of their secret extermination operation: The Abraham Project.
According to his theory, the mentally ill would be used as agents to assassinate him and carry out other crimes. Schizophrenics would obey voices emitted by audio systems secretly installed in their homes.
That would explain why a mentally ill person ransacked the Raelian church campground in November 2002, according to the guru. It was a test of their methods.
The former journalist goes as far as citing an alleged directive of U.S. President George Bush: "I want the skin of this Rael who preaches atheism at all costs."
"If I'm assassinated next by a mentally ill person," concludes Rael, "you must cry out loud and strong what's behind all that and that you've made investigations that unmask those responsible who are extremely high-placed in France and the United States."
The Raelians don't bat an eye hearing about such presumed plots. There is even one who hopes that it will happen.
"That would be good if one day Rael was killed or died," says Pierre Bolduc, a friend of Rael's since his arrival in Quebec 25 years ago.
"Because if he died, there wouldn't be any further chance that one day he would deny all that he's taught the last 20 years -- his meeting with the Elohims and all that. Jesus wasn't crucified for nothing!" he says.
The Raelian movement already shows signs of going off the rails which brings to mind the deaths of 10 members of the Order of the Sun Temple in Quebec in the 1990s.
That's the opinion of Dianne Casoni, a renowned psychologist and criminologist who specializes in religious sects, after reviewing material gathered by Sun Media.
"Generally, it's the mental health and the moral judgment of the leader that's the greatest protection against loss of control," says the University of Montreal professor.
Rael is already showing signs of paranoia anxiety -- security guards are omnipresent and he has written about his fear of assassination.
"What worries me the most is when conspiracy theories develop," Casoni explains. "The group says to itself, 'We're in danger, we have to protect ourselves,' and sometimes it becomes, 'We have to fight back' and that's when things can go on the skids."
She recalls that religious cult leader Jim Jones constantly obliged his disciples to move before his paranoia resulted in the collective suicide of 912 members of his sect, the Temple of the People, in Guyana in 1978.
Another disturbing fact is Claude Vorilhon, Rael, is tightening his hold over his disciples more and more. The creation of the Order of the Angels, the women in his service, is an example.
"From year to year we see an increase in the assertion of Rael's authority," says Alain Bouchard, a sociologist observing the Raelian movement.
"He's really starting to take himself more seriously," he adds. "His ego's growing."
"It worries me to see that there's a growth in the level of control and Continued from previous page unreasonable demands," says Mike Kropveld, director of Info-Sect.
Claude Vorilhon himself admitted the potential danger of a movement going in the wrong direction, following the first collective suicides of Sun Temple in 1994.
"No one is protected from a loss of control," he told Le Journal de Montreal at the time. "Jesus said: 'Love one another' and Catholicism produced the Inquisition. We shouldn't be shocked by anything then."
Seventy-four members of the Order of the Sun Temple were killed or committed suicide in three countries from 1994 to 1997.
Ten died in Quebec.
For now, the effects on the members of the leader's paranoia of the leader is limited to the sort of feelings you'd get from a horror film, according to Bouchard.
"The members are afraid; it's created a thrill and a cohesion in the group so everyone is satisfied," he says. "When they begin to construct bunkers, that's when we should be worried."
But things could become complicated the day the leader faces the crumbling of his movement, warns Casoni.
That could already be happening, for in spite the pretensions of Rael, "the membership of the movement has been stagnating for the past 20 years," Bouchard points out.
The leader will then have two choices -- to accept the dissolution of his group or to adopt the hard line, only keeping the core of his group.
"In the end with the Order of the Sun Temple, only the most committed members killed themselves," recalls Casoni.
The elite Angels of Rael have the obligation of more than serving their prophet. They must die for him if necessary.
A statement entitled "Last Messages" is entrusted to all Raelians interested in joining the Angels of Rael. It eloquently indicates they must be ready to be of service to the Elohim (extraterrestrials) and the prophets (Rael) without any restrictions, including sexuality.
"The privilege of being near them" is reserved to those who want to give everything, "including their own lives if that is necessary to protect them," says the statement.
The document even demands those senior among the Angels to fill in a new form of adherence to make their choice.
"For the Angels of Rael, the Elohim and their Messenger come above everything. These are the individuals who are ready to sacrifice everything for them ... even their lives," we can read in a second document given to the Angels.
An Angel for the past five years, Sandrine, 40, takes her commitment very seriously. When asked if she is ready to die if the security of her prophet is put in danger, she answers without hesitation.
"Absolutely!" replies the slim brunette when questioned at UFOland this past summer by an undercover Sun Media reporter.
"And I would do it for you, too, if there was an injustice," she adds eagerly and convincingly.
In principal, only Rael can decide if such a sacrifice is necessary or not, since in the eyes of his disciples, he is the only one in contact with the Elohims.
Could he proclaim one day that the Elohims asked him telepathically for a sacrifice?
"Before getting to that point, it would be necessary to first have preliminary signs," asserts Alain Bouchard, sociologist of religions at the University of Laval.
For now, everything supports the belief that it's only about a symbolic commitment.
Some are concerned the lives of these women could, however, be put in danger in the future.
"If things start going downhill, that which was symbolic could be required," warns Dianne Casoni.
"It's disturbing to make this type of demand on people," says Mike Kropveld.
Curiously enough, Kropveld tends to think that there's nothing to be alarmed about. "It's one of the most transparent movements that I know," he says.
Throughout this series, our three experts on cult organizations will provide their views on what our journalists have discovered. They will analyse the activities, attitude and philosophy of the Raelian movement, as revealed by our investigation.
Dianne Casoni, a specialist in cult groups, asserts the Raelians use various methods to control and intimidate their disciples. She's a psychologist and professor at the Department of Criminology of the University of Montreal.
Alain Bouchard, an expert on the Raelian movement, says the organization needs scientific assertions, be they true or false, to establish its credibility in the eyes of the public and of its disciples. He teaches religious studies at Laval University in Quebec City.
Finally, Sun Media met with Mike Kropveld, director of Info-Cult, an organization focused on sensitizing the community to cult thinking.
According to Kropveld, Rael uses provocation to maintain the cohesion of his group.
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Former members of the Raelian cult say attractive members of the movement cruise strip clubs and bars looking for lonelyhearts who are offered free sex - and plenty of it - to recruit them into the organization.
"They work the bars and the vulnerable ones are caught," said Steve Hassan, a former Moonie who now helps "deprogram" cult members with the Boston-based organization Freedom of Thought.
"They use free sexuality as inducement and recruiting."
Former Raelian Pete Cooke was recruited into the cult by a dancer in Montreal's Kit Kat strip bar.
"I had been divorced for 16 years. I wasn't a misfit but I had trouble making friends and I was lonely and I got sucked right in," said Cooke, who spent two years with the cult.
The Quebec-based religion, headed by former journalist and race car driver Claude Vorilhon - who is known as Rael - believes humans were cloned by aliens.
Cooke, who has been out of the cult for five years and now lives north of Toronto, believes in UFOs.
"It wouldn't be such a bad place if you'd leave all the sex out. I'd never go back because of the sexual aspect," he said.
"I didn't like all the opening of genitals or all the focusing on the anus."
There are mandatory sensual meditation sessions in which a "guide" instructs Raelian members how to caress their breasts and nipples, how to produce and lick the odour from armpits and genitals and how to use a mirror to study and play with the anus.
Asked about orgies, Raelian Bishop Rickey Lee said: "There aren't orgies going on all the time."
Not every member is hustled into the organization in bars by hot-looking Raelians, said Mike Kropveld, executive director of Info-Cult, an organization focused on sensitizing the community to cult thinking.
"Some people join after going to Raelian meetings, which are also very touchy-feely," Kropveld said, adding that some of the women in the movement are in the sex and stripping trades.
"The Raelians appeal to them because they are liberal and that supports the women's lifestyle."
Some beautiful Raelian women work in strip clubs and recruit, said Eric Lamarche, a 17-year member of the cult who joined at the age of 18. He has since left the Raelians and now lives in Montreal.
"They attract them before one of the sensual meditations," he said. "Very good-looking men go to bars before the meditation session, too."
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Three months after having infiltrated the Raelians, reporter Brigitte McCann was officially accepted by the group. On April 6, she was baptized by Claude Vorilhon - Rael himself - assisted by the president of Clonaid, Brigitte Boisselier, during a grand ceremony staged at the Canada Pavilion on Ile Notre-Dame in Montreal.
It's a great day to be a Raelian. At last, I can "educate" humanity. I make my way through the crowd of 250 or so Raelians waiting excitedly for the annual "celebration of the creation of the first humans in a laboratory."
All are impatient to see the faces of the new Raelians - fresh blood, who will be baptized today. I feel all eyes on me as I take my place in the lineup of only six recruits.
Standing in front of the crowd of Raelians for the first time, I'm afraid someone will recognize and denounce me. I make a mental note of the exits.
Disguised as a recruit, my colleague Chantal is squatting in the first row of spectators, camera in hand. She obtained a rare permission to take photos so I could have a souvenir of the event.
Baptism Day is the greatest moment in the life of a Raelian. None of them ever forget it.
During the "transmission" of my "cellular plan," Rael will use telepathy to send my genetic code to our creators, the Elohims, who will then be able to communicate with me.
They will understand that I now acknowledge them as my creators and that I will transmit their "messages." I will make my official entrance among these "educators of humanity" and may one day attain eternal life on the planet of the Elohims.
All morning perfect strangers have been warmly congratulating and hugging me. As they pass by, they proudly exclaim: "So you're the Brigitte who is doing a transmission of her cellular plan! And you're to be baptized by Rael himself? Lucky girl! When I was baptized, it was just by a guide ... ."
My turn has come. The leader calls my fictitious name into the microphone. A rapid scan of the hall - no one moves a muscle. I walk towards Claude Vorilhon. His bodyguards don't flinch. Everything's going to plan.
I pass in front of Brigitte Boisselier, the cloning priestess, who holds a large bowl of water. I stop in front of the "prophet," who fixes his eyes on mine, his face solemn.
Baptism is his bolt from the blue, his sword, his stranglehold on his disciples. At any time, he can withdraw their privileges by debaptizing them on the spot.
But now, my only concern is to have the right expression on my face. I opt for a blend of emotion and solemnity.
The guru turns toward Boisselier and plunges his hands into the bowl of water. He places his right hand on my forehead, his left on the back of my head and exerts a light pressure. Water runs down my face. He closes his eyes, and so do I.
The next five seconds feel like 20. It's as though all the spectators are holding their breath. I wait, ready for anything to happen.
Vorilhon opens his eyes right after me and solemnly declares: "The Elohims have acknowledged you!"
The crowd is enchanted and applauds warmly while I return to my seat, stopping on my way to shake a few hands.
"Welcome to the family!" cries Manon, an exuberant Raelian woman whom I've been rubbing shoulders with since January. She has tears in her eyes and plants two wet kisses on my cheeks.
"And?" she asks, her eyes wide.
"Er ... it was incredible! I felt all warm inside."
"I felt the same thing," she answers, satisfied. "Rael is soooo full of love!"
To hear Vorilhon, his love is infinite. "I love you, all of you, with or without a skirt, with an equal love," he declares. "This love is the only love."
That may be true, but disciples soon learn that doesn't mean they can bug him with their problems. The misfortunes of "abused people" are of no interest to him.
"The English say: Bull----!" he cries. "If you want to make yourself interesting with your problems, OK, but we won't play into your hands."
He doesn't want to hear a word about the past of his followers: "You want to tell me about your past? Have you been raped, here, just now? No? Well then, all's well!"
The same goes for the women's mood swings. "It is so easy for a woman to justify her misfortune, her character, but premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is no excuse for losing your happiness. Say to yourselves: I'll go meditate. When the PMS is over, you will no longer have this handicap."
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Raelian expose big news in U.S.
KEVIN CONNOR, Sun Media NewspapersCopyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003
The Raelians, who welcomed worldwide attention earlier this year for 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.
The Quebec-based religion, headed by former journalist and race car driver Claude Vorilhon -- who is known as Rael -- believes humans were cloned by aliens.
The articles disclosed 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 in human cell culture.
The Raelian movement became front-page news last December with claims its scientists soon would deliver the first human clone. No proof was ever given they had cloned a baby.
The reporters also uncovered bizarre "sensual meditation" sessions.
"Our members aren't forced to do anything," Raelian Bishop Ricky Lee said Thursday.
The newspaper series has attracted international attention, with reporters Brigitte McCann and Chantal Poirier appearing on CNN and U.S. newspapers running excerpts.
Lee said his group is considering a lawsuit because of the series.
"(The reporters) were deceitful (about joining) and printed lies to sell a story," Lee said.
Mike Kropveld, executive director of Info-Cult, said there is the possibility the Raelians knew there were reporters in their midst and ignored it for the publicity.
"It would satisfy (Vorilhon's) need for the spotlight," said Kropveld.
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Raelians condemn investigative articles
News Writer Mike Woloschuk
Online News Journalist CBC Montreal
MONTREAL - Members of the Raelian movement demonstrated Thursday morning in front of the offices of the Journal de Montreal because they are upset by a series of investigative articles published recently in the tabloid.
The articles described how members mocked the media who covered the Clonaid news conference where the success of a human cloning experiment was announced.
Clonaid, the fringe scientific group, has known ties to the Raelians.
Nicole Bertrand, a bishop in the Raelian movement, said the group is being unfairly targeted."If we were Jewish would they write things like that about us, would they treat us the way they treat us now?" said Bertrand
"Because we are a minority they think we are vulnerable and that they can spit un us and that we won't say anything. It's impossible to let that happen again."
She said the Raelians may take legal action against the newspaper.
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Holiness Rael and The Raelian Movement Refute Allegations Recently Published in
Friday October 10, 11:35 am ET
In reply to the slanderous and untrue allegations of some media and particularly the Journal de Montrial, which have been forwarded to our attorneys, His Holiness Rael and the Raelian Movement wish to make the following clarifications:
#1. His Holiness Rael never said that the human cloning announced by Brigitte Boisselier -- head of the Clonaid project -- last December, was a hoax. He still believes that Dr. Boisselier's claims are true and will be confirmed, and that the babies cloned by Dr. Boisselier do actually exist.
#2. He reminds us that the Raelian Movement and Dr. Boisselier's cloning company are not connected in any way. Dr. Boisselier's cloning company -- whose name is not Clonaid, which is only a project name -- is a private company of which His Holiness Rael does not know the name nor the country of registration. Neither the Raelian Movement nor His Holiness Rael has any direct or indirect interest in this company.
#3. The announcement made in Miami last December was not by the Raelian Movement, but by Brigitte Boisselier alone, in the name of her private company.
#4. It was the media who insisted on interviewing not only Dr. Boisselier but His Holiness Rael as well, who supports the idea that human cloning is a good thing and will lead some day to attaining eternal life when memory transfer and accelerated growth become possible.
#5. Indeed, His Holiness Rael is very happy about the $750 million of worldwide media coverage that Dr. Boisselier's announcement brought to the Raelian Movement, whether Dr. Boisselier's claims are true or false. Although His Holiness Rael still believes that Dr. Boisselier actually accomplished what she announced, he does not consider himself responsible for the actions or claims of any of the 60,000 members of the Raelian Movement, whether personal or professional.
#6. Indeed, His Holiness Rael has declared that if her claims are true, Dr. Boisselier deserves a Nobel Prize, but if not, she has brought invaluable worldwide media coverage -- estimated at more than $750 million -- to the Raelian Movement anyway. However, he still trusts Dr. Boisselier and believes the five cloned babies actually exist.
Clonaid president Dr. Brigitte Boisselier plans to use her so-called human cloning technique to "generate new arms" for Ali Abbas, a young Iraqi orphan mutilated by a bomb in Iraq. This announcement, in a press release issued by the Raelians on September 11, shocked and troubled representatives of Ali Abbas, alerted by Sun Media a few days ago.
They say that neither Boisselier nor any other Raelian has ever contacted the young Iraqi or his representatives.
The organization that brought the 13-year-old boy to London for treatment calls it pure invention and a shameful attempt to cash in on Ali's story.
"Ali will be saddened to see people who have never helped him use his name and his tragedy for promotional purposes," said Diana Morgan, spokesman of the Limbless Association.
"Ali will soon receive his new artificial limbs," she added. "Physically, he is doing well and his morale is good."
The Iraqi teenager made front page news throughout the world last April. He lost both of his arms when the Americans bombed Baghdad, and his parents and brother were killed.
Lying on a stretcher in a makeshift hospital, he touched many hearts when he declared that he wanted the doctors to give him a new pair of arms or he would commit suicide.
The teenager was transferred to Kuwait, then to London, where he will receive artificial limbs valued at $30,000 each.
Another person unhappy by the Raelians' statement is Dr. Catherine Tsilfidis of the University of Ottawa, an expert in the field of stem cells. Her study on newts, and their ability to regenerate limbs, has won her recognition.
The Raelians' press release says that Dr. Boisselier and her team studied Dr. Tsilfidis' research report with care.
"Impossible!" said Tsilfidis, astonished to see her name used.
"We have not yet published the results of our research. If Brigitte Boisselier implies that we co-operated with her, it is not true."
Two other reputable scientists, Ellen Heber-Katz and Mark Keating, are also mentioned in the press release. Heber-Katz discovered that mice suffering from lupus had the capacity to regenerate amputated tissue but is far from explaining or controlling this phenomenon.
Contacted by Sun Media in Philadelphia, the scientist said that the Raelians' claims are "totally ridiculous."
"I have never spoken to these people. I have never had any dealings with them," she said.
Biologist Mark Keating, based in Boston, is of the same opinion.
"It is highly probable that one day we will succeed in regenerating human limbs, but we've got a long way to go," he said.
"The day we succeed, the technique will rest on science, and not on confabulations about extraterrestrials."
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