Cloning sect targets city

Brisbane, Australia - A BIZARRE religion that says it clones humans and communicates with aliens has embarked on a massive recruiting campaign across Brisbane.

The Raelian Movement, which says it has cloned 15 children around the world, has recruited at least 300 members at nightclubs, library seminars and public information sessions in King George Square.

The religion founder, a former French motorsport journalist who says he has communicated with aliens, will visit Brisbane this month.

A Catholic Church spokesman dubbed the Raelian movement a "cult' and warned anyone interested to be cautious.

The movement attracted worldwide attention in 2003 when Raelians said they had successfully cloned a child. Cloning experts dismissed the claims because the group failed to provide proof.

Spokesman Saul O'Brien said everyone from engineers to publishers had joined the group which was founded in 1973 by journalist Claude Vorilhon.

Vorilhon, who adopted the name Rael, claimed aliens visited him and said there was no God.

Mr O'Brien said people throughout Brisbane had adopted the group's beliefs.

"They believe there is no God and that we were cloned from extraterrestrials," he said.

"They also believe that as Raelians we should clone ourselves when we're 70 and download our consciousness and personalities into 18-year-old bodies and truly live forever."

Mr O'Brien, a 42-year-old Highgate Hill signwriter, said the group recruited at events such as a disco at The Globe theatre in Fortitude Valley.

He said the retro-themed evening featured a Raelian DJ, music, videos, licensed bar and floorshow performers.

"That was a great night which drew quite a crowd," Mr O'Brien said.

The father-of-two also recruited members by driving a Toyota Tarago van painted with Raelian slogans and their web address.

Members also set up an information stand on the footpath next to Brisbane's King George Square.

"The message on my van reads, 'It's time to welcome our intelligent designers from space'," Mr O'Brien said.

"I also have pictures of Rael who will visit Brisbane on March 25 and we hand out information in the city."

Rael, who says a cloned child lives in Sydney, will spend eight days in southeast Queensland to conduct "open mind" seminars about the movement.

Mr O'Brien said Raelian area managers were recruiting in all Australian cities and had 500 full-time members and hundreds of "closet Raelians".

"We have 66,000 members and more than $20 million in funds worldwide," Mr O'Brien said.

"Our Australian numbers are growing rapidly."

He said the group travelled to Sydney to take part in the annual Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras last weekend.

He said a Raelian float which depicted the Pope as "the world's biggest homophobe" appeared in the parade.

The Catholic church spokesman said: "It would appear their caricature and criticism of the Pope also indicates a movement bereft of ideas and insecure in its own beliefs."