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More Cartoons Insulting Religion.--

South Park, fresh from surviving a Catholic-inspired boycott of an episode showing a bleeding Virgin Mary, is now in trouble with Scientology.

First, Isaac Hayes, Scientologist and longtime voice of the character Chef, quit the show:

Hayes said the show's parody of religion in general was part of what he saw as a "growing insensitivity toward personal spiritual beliefs" in the media, including the recent controversy over cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammad.

"There is a place in this world for satire, but there is a time when satire ends and intolerance and bigotry toward religious beliefs ... begins," Hayes said.

Matt Stone responded with a public statement:

This has nothing to do with intolerance and bigotry and everything to do with the fact that Isaac Hayes is a Scientologist and that we recently featured Scientology in an episode of 'South Park.' In ten years and over 150 episodes of 'South Park,' Isaac never had a problem with the show making fun of Christians, Muslims, Mormons and Jews. He got a sudden case of religious sensitivity when it was his religion featured on the show. To bring the civil rights struggle into this is just a non-sequiter. Of course we will release Isaac from his contract and we wish him well.

Stone then went even further:

"This is 100 percent having to do with his faith of Scientology. . . . He has no problem — and he's cashed plenty of checks — with our show making fun of Christians."

Now some in the press are accusing the prominent Scientologist, Tom Cruise, of getting Comedy Central to suppress the showing of an episode mocking him. But Cruise's representative denies the charge, and a Paramount spokeswoman denied knowledge of any threats:

Actor Tom Cruise threatened to boycott promotion of his upcoming Paramount Pictures film unless a sister cable TV network pulled a South Park rerun lampooning the Church of Scientology, industry sources said today.

Representatives for Paramount and Cruise, a prominent Scientologist, denied he made any such threats or had anything to do with the Comedy Central network cancelling plans to air a repeat of the South Park episode titled Trapped in the Closet on Wednesday.

Trey Parker and Matt Stone, creators of the crudely animated cartoon hit, issued a quirky statement, filled with references to Scientology and the science-fiction writings of church founder L. Ron Hubbard, suggesting Scientology was behind the scheduling change. . . .

Instead of the Tom Cruise episode, the network aired reruns of two South Park episodes featuring the character Chef, voiced by veteran soul singer Isaac Hayes, also a Scientologist, who quit the show earlier this week.

Comedy Central, which like Paramount is owned by Viacom Inc, declined comment on the rerun switch, other than to say: "In light of the events of earlier this week, we wanted to give Chef an appropriate tribute by airing two episodes he is most known for."

Two industry sources familiar with the situation said Comedy Central pulled the "Trapped in the Closet" episode from its South Park rerun rotation after Cruise threatened to cease promotion of his upcoming Paramount film, Mission: Impossible III.

Cruise spokesman Paul Bloch said neither the actor nor his representatives "had anything to do" with the scheduling of South Park reruns and that Cruise had never said to anyone he would refuse to promote his film. Paramount spokeswoman Janet Hill denied any knowledge of such a threat.

Apparently invoking Scientology terminology, Stone and Parker responded to the latest move by Comedy Central:

" So, Scientology, you may have won THIS battle, but the million-year war for earth has just begun! Temporarily anozinizing our episode will NOT stop us from keeping Thetans forever trapped in your pitiful man-bodies. Curses and drat! You have obstructed us for now, but your feeble bid to save humanity will fail! Hail Xenu!!!

- Trey Parker and Matt Stone, servants of the dark lord Xenu."

What is it about cartoons and religion?

UPDATE: If you want to see the episode that started all the fuss (or read a transcript), the links are here.

NOW SHOWING (on the web): The South Park Episode That Comedy Central Didn't Reshow.--

Prominent Scientologist, Tom Cruise, stands accused in the press of inducing Comedy Central to suppress the reshowing of an episode mocking both him and Scientology. For those who want to see the offensive episode and make up their own minds, fortunately South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker have been quite open toward private downloads of their material.

Accordingly, here is the Scientology episode in its entirety. It lasts just under 22 minutes.

If you would rather read the script, you may do so here.

Jack Myers has had a long description of the episode on his site since last fall.

In South Park's Scientology episode, Stan, one of the kids who lives in South Park, Colorado, is tested with something called an "E-meter" and scores so highly that he is believed to be the reincarnation of L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology.

Here are some of the highlights of the last half of the episode, as described by Jack Myers:

First, the president of the Church of Scientology revealed the "safely guarded Scientology doctrine" to Stan. "It all began 75 million years ago with a galactic federation of planets ruled by the evil Lord Xenu," he started, reciting a story that is posted all over the Web. "Fearing overcrowding, Xenu rounded up countless aliens from all those planets and had those aliens frozen. The frozen alien bodies were loaded onto Xenu's galactic cruisers, which looked like DC-8s, except with rocket engines. They were sent to earth and dumped into the volcanoes of Hawaii [and other volcanoes, see Wikipedia]. They were no longer frozen. They were dead.

"The souls of the aliens floated toward the sky," the president continued, explaining that Xenu had built giant "soul catchers" to collect them all and unload them into a brainwashing facility he had built on earth. "The souls were forced to watch days of brainwashing material that tricked them into believing a false reality," the president revealed. "Xenu then released the alien souls that roamed the earth aimlessly in a fog of confusion. At the dawn of man the aliens found bodies they could grab onto. They attached themselves to all mankind, which still to this day causes all our fears, confusions and problems."

As the president spoke this story was presented in colorful animated detail — with the words "This is What Scientologists Actually Believe" superimposed on the screen.

Meanwhile, back in Stan's bedroom, Nicole Kidman was recruited to help in the effort to convince Tom Cruise come out of hiding. "Don't you think this has gone on long enough?" she asked her ex-husband. "It's time for you to come out of the closet."

"I'm not in the closet," Cruise replied.

"Yes you are, Tom," said a patient Kidman. "And you need to just end this and come out. I'm not going to think any differently of you. Katie's not going to think any differently of you. You don't need to be in that closet anymore, Tom. Come out. You're not fooling anyone."

Eventually, fellow Scientologist John Travolta joined Cruise in the closet. He also refused to come out, sparking additional interest from the media. Stan, meantime, was busily writing a new sacred doctrine for the Church. But when he suggested that Scientologists should no longer have to pay money to belong to the Church, its president had a meltdown.

"What are you, stupid?" he raged. "What's better than telling people a stupid story and having them believe you? Having them pay you for it!" Stan's continued gentle protests further agitated him. "This is a scam on a global scale!" the man cried. "Do you f---ing get me now?"

Stan later addressed a huge crowd of Scientologists in front of his home that had assembled to meet their new profit [sic, a Freudian slip?--JL]. But he further defied the head of the Church, telling the masses, "Scientology is just a big fat global scam." "We're going to sue you!" screamed several outraged Scientologists, including Cruise, who had finally come out of Stan's closet.

"We're going to sue your ass and your balls!" cried one.

"You are so sued, kid," said another.

"Well go on then. Sue me!" Stan shot back. "Do it! I'm not scared of you! Sue me!"

At that, the episode ended, and in a final tweak from Parker and Stone, all of the names in the show's closing credits read John Smith or Jane Smith [presumably to make them harder to identify and thus sue--JL].

Now I can better understand Stone and Parker's response to Comedy Central's suppressing the episode:

" So, Scientology, you may have won THIS battle, but the million-year war for earth has just begun! Temporarily anozinizing our episode will NOT stop us from keeping Thetans forever trapped in your pitiful man-bodies. Curses and drat! You have obstructed us for now, but your feeble bid to save humanity will fail! Hail Xenu!!!

- Trey Parker and Matt Stone, servants of the dark lord Xenu."

One thing that struck me while watching the Scientology episode is that some of the creation stories in mainstream religions are a bit hard to swallow as well, though I take it that Scientology's creation story is in some respects even stranger than the episode makes it out to be, which is pretty farfetched.

UPDATE: According to FOXNEWS, Comedy Central is going to show the bumped Scientology episode on Wednesday at 10pm ET (tip to Fark.com). Although one can't be certain, it appears as if the uproar made Comedy Central rethink their position on reshowing the episode.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Chef Returns for a South Park Episode.--
  2. NOW SHOWING (on the web): The South Park Episode That Comedy Central Didn't Reshow.--
  3. More Cartoons Insulting Religion.--
Chef Returns for a South Park Episode.--

Ann Althouse has brief comments on the South Park episode: The Return of Chef.

I missed the first showing, but I'm hoping to catch the repeat a few hours later at Wednesday midnight ET, 11pm CT.

UPDATE: "J. Dismas Locke" emails:

To paraphrase Mark Twain: "Never pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel, bandwidth by the gigabyte, or national cable airtime by the half-hour."