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