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July 18, 2013 Off

Raelians Plan “Swastika Rehabilitation Day” For July 20

A fringe reli­gious sect known as the Raelian Move­ment has announced plans for its fourth annual “Swastika Reha­bil­i­ta­tion Day,” sched­uled for July 20.  “Swastika Reha­bil­i­ta­tion Day” activ­i­ties sched­uled for the United States on that day include events at Cop­ley Square in Boston, on bicy­cles on Chicago’s lake front, in Las Vegas on the Strip, in Los Ange­les at the Santa Mon­ica Pier, in the air over New York City, at Point State Park in Pitts­burgh, on the River­walk in San Anto­nio, and in the Cas­tro Dis­trict of San Francisco.raelian-logo

The Raelian Move­ment is a small reli­gious move­ment based pri­mar­ily in West­ern Europe, with some adher­ents in North Amer­ica, Japan, and even Israel.  Its logo con­sists of a Star of David inter­twined with a swastika—a rather star­tling image.  Although peo­ple often report sight­ings of the Raelian logo as a hate sym­bol, the Raelians use the swastika not in its Nazi con­text but in its East Asian con­text as a sym­bol of good for­tune.  For a time in the 1990s, the Raelians shifted to a less con­tro­ver­sial logo, but they soon returned to the orig­i­nal version.

It is because of their logo that the Raelians have for decades been active in so-called “swastika reha­bil­i­ta­tion,” efforts that to date have not achieved their desired pur­pose and are unlikely to do so any time soon, at least in West­ern soci­ety.  The Raelians’ other con­tro­ver­sial cam­paign, their “Go Top­less” cam­paign for women, has also won lit­tle but notoriety.

The Raelian Move­ment was started in the 1970s by a for­mer French race car dri­ver, Claude Voril­hon (now known as Rael); its beliefs cen­ter around advanced extrater­res­trial civ­i­liza­tions.  It does not have a his­tory of violence. 

The most prob­lem­atic aspect related to the Raelians is their opin­ions about other reli­gions.  Though they pro­fess to be tol­er­ant and in most respects live up to such claims, this is not always true when it comes to “com­pet­ing” sets of reli­gious beliefs.  In par­tic­u­lar, the Raelians have launched a num­ber of nasty attacks against the Catholic Church over the years. 

The Raelians have also made prob­lem­atic state­ments regard­ing Jews and Judaism.  Some state­ments have stemmed from the group’s poor gov­ern­men­tal recep­tion in Israel, oth­ers from sym­pa­thy with Pales­tini­ans, while still oth­ers have risen from a desire that Jews accept Raelian teach­ings.  All three sen­ti­ments com­bined in a 2008 state­ment by the group’s spokesper­son in Israel, Leon Mel­lul, in which he claimed that Jew­ish teach­ings were “prim­i­tive ideas from the Mid­dle Ages” and “unfounded non­sense” and said that Israel’s sur­vival depended on:  1) rec­og­niz­ing Rael as the Mes­siah; 2) per­mit­ting the “Raelian Embassy” [in Israel]; and 3) “show­ing love and com­pas­sion for all human beings.”

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