Raelians revive swastika/Star of David symbol

Montreal, Canada - The Raelian movement’s recent decision to revive an emblem of a swastika intertwined with the Star of David as its official symbol is a desperate effort to generate publicity, said the head of an organization that monitors cult-like and marginal groups.

“It’s just another attempt to get media attention,” said Mike Kropveld, director of Info-Secte in Montreal.

“My sense is they feel they haven’t gotten talked about in a long time, and Rael loves to be in the media eye,” Kropveld added, referring to Claude Vorhilon, the French-born founder of the Raelian movement who dubbed himself Rael.

Kropveld has monitored the Raelians – a bizarre, quasi-scientific movement that believes in extraterrestrials and that an extraterrestrial leader, Yahweh, visited Earth in a UFO – from the time he ran the Cult Project out of Hillel House some 30 years ago.

The Raelian movement is also known for its free sexual lifestyle and for triggering a flurry of media attention in 2004 when it claimed to have cloned the first human.

Kropveld noted that Vorhilon continues to pay periodic visits to Quebec, especially Valcourt in the Eastern Townships, where he established “UFO Land.”

The group claims a following of 65,000, but the number of “core” members in Quebec is probably closer to “a few hundred,” Kropveld said

“It is even incorporated as an atheist religion in Quebec,” he said.

On Jan. 19, the sect announced its decision to begin using its original swastika symbol again, because it said that not using it kept the public from knowing what the ancient symbol really meant: peace, “infinity in time,” and eternity.

Even some ancient synagogues bear the swastika, the Raelians maintain.

“Rael… has decided to make the original symbol… the only official symbol of the Raelian movement,” its website, raelianews.org, stated.

It said that dropping the symbol in 1992 was done “out of respect to the Jewish people.”

When it announced the decision 15 years ago to abandon the swastika, it was “to facilitate the construction of an embassy for welcoming the Elohim in Israel, and out of respect for the sensitivity of the victims of Nazism,” a statement at the time said.

Kropveld, 57, recalled the days when Raelian supporters would approach the public in front of local synagogues, which prompted reaction by Michael Crelinsten, then executive director of Canadian Jewish Congress, Quebec region.

The Raelians even have several hundred followers in Israel, Kropveld said. According to the World Wide Religious News website, the Raelians have raised $7 million “to establish an ‘embassy’ in Jerusalem, where they believe the Elohim began creating human beings.

“In the movement’s Tel Aviv office, there is a fat file containing copies of their requests to, and repeated refusals from, the Israeli authorities in the matter of the embassy,” the site says.

Kropveld said Info-Secte now resists using the word “cult” to describe groups such as the Raelians, because the term now automatically conjures up a negative connotation instead of being more of a neutral term, as it was decades ago.

In the case of Raelians and the move to restore the swastika, Kropveld said, the motive is media attention. “[The swastika] has such significant meaning to so many people. They are media-savvy, [but] I think they are kind of grasping at straws.”

The Raelians, for their part, vowed to carry on.

“Raelians of the world are now joining forces with Hindus and Buddhists to educate the rest of the population about the true history of the swastika, and to make sure that their symbol is forever respected,” their website stated.