The day after Christmas, Eve, the first human clone, was born. Or so claims the Quebec-based Raelian cult and its research subsidiary Clonaid. Within two weeks, Clonaid claimed that another cloned baby had been born in the Netherlands to a pair of lesbians.

After generating much publicity, the family, the cult and Clonaid broke their initial promise to allow the child to be tested to verify that the child is a clone and refused to even reveal the identity of the child and family.

Initially Brigitte Boisselier, chief executive of Clonaid, accepted an offer by a former ABC News science editor, Michael Guillen, to oversee verification. Guillen said he would lead the verification team “on behalf of the world press on two conditions: that there be no strings attached and that the tests be conducted by independent, world-class experts.” However, the British newspaper The Guardian cast doubts on Guillen’s credibility, reporting that his detractors “say his career at ABC was marked by a credulous stance towards eccentric backwaters of science, including extra-sensory perception, astrology and telekinesis.”

The Raelian cult, based in Quebec, is led by Claude Vorilhon, a French race car driver who (in the words of the New York Times) “believes space travelers populated earth through cloning and that humanity’s mission is to clone,” which is the key to eternal life.

Despite agreeing to allow independent verification, Boisselier later announced that there would be delays and she ultimately cancelled any verification whatsoever, citing privacy concerns for the child and family. Appearing on CNN, Rael said he told Boisselier, “If there is any risk that this baby is taken away from the family, it is better to lose your credibility. Don’t do the testing.”

Nonetheless, the the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has launched an investigation into the ludicrous claims of the Raelian cult and Clonaid. The FDA – whose mandate includes regulating human trials on U.S. soil – says it is looking into the allegations, even though the company claims the cloning was done outside the country.

Boisselier, who is also a “bishop” within the cult, announced that there are several other imminent cloning births in North America and Asia. That announcement prompted prosecutors in South Korea to investigate Clonaid officials in Seoul. Published reports last year said the company impregnated a South Korean woman with a cloned human embryo and that she left the country in July.

In Washington, bipartisan legislation, the Human Cloning Prohibition Act, sponsored by Congressman Dave Weldon (R-Florida) and Bart Stupak (D-Michigan) reintroduced legislation to ban all cloning of human life, which is expected to be voted on this month or next. Their bill passed the House of Representatives 265-162 in the previous Congress, but the Democratic-controlled Senate refused to consider the issue of human cloning at all. With the Republicans gaining control of the Senate in November’s mid-term elections, the issue is expected to be given a hearing. President George W. Bush has promised to sign into law a comprehensive cloning ban.

But some politicians and scientists would prefer to see a ban on so-called reproductive cloning while allowing therapeutic or research cloning. The latter means creating and destroying human embryos for experimentation. Pro-life organizations recognize there is no moral difference between the two purposes of cloning.

Evangelical leader Charles Colson said in his Breakpoint commentary, “The distinction between ‘therapeutic’ cloning and ‘reproductive’ cloning is a smoke screen. All cloning is reproductive. Who is going to enforce whether an embryo goes to a lab for experimentation or is implanted in a womb to be born? The Justice Department has testified that it cannot. In order to ban live-birth cloning, we must ban all human cloning. Politically, this is the time to do it. The president has said he wants a cloning ban.”

The American Bioethics Advisory Commission, a project of the American Life League, said, “Cloning is not only an immoral act that sacrifices innocent human life for a so-called scientific gain, it is Frankensteinish science at its worst and should be outlawed immediately.”

The ABAC said even if the claim is untrue, which is likely, the Clonaid scare and the announcement that Stanford University in California is hoping to clone human beings for research (see story on page 3), should be a clarion call to all those who value human life that they must get actively involved in the fight to pass a comprehensive congressional ban on all human cloning.

In Canada, the home of the Raelian cult, the cloning announcement has given no new impetus for a comprehensive cloning ban.

The Ottawa Citizen reported that Vancouver-based genetics specialist Dr. Patricia Baird complained it is time to act on human cloning. “We’ve been debating and discussing and policy-making for 15 years now in Canada about these kinds of issues.” In 1995, the Royal Commission on New Reproductive Technologies, which Baird chaired, called for a ban on human cloning. However, legislation based on the commission’s report, the Assisted Human Reproduction Act, died on the floor of the House of Commons when Prime Minister Jean Chretien called an election in 1997. Last year, Health Minister Anne McLellan introduced legislation that claims to ban human cloning. It was approved by the parliamentary health committee in December.

Jim Hughes, national president of Campaign Life Coalition, told The Interim that nothing in the legislation effectively bans cloning. He pointed to expert analysis by Dianne Irving, biochemist and professor of philosophy and ethics at Catholic University of America, who submitted her concerns to the parliamentary health committee last year. Irving said the bill is flawed because of vague or otherwise insufficient definitions. Most notable is the failure to name seven specific methods of cloning and misdefining another. Hughes said this is a loophole that scientists will use to clone human beings.