Isaac Hayes quits South Park over Scientology episode

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Isaac Hayes has quit his role in Comedy Central's animated series South Park, where he has been the voice of Chef since 1997.

Hayes, an outspoken Scientologist, said "There is a place in this world for satire, but there is a time when satire ends and intolerance and bigotry towards religious beliefs of others begins," in reference to the "Trapped in the Closet" episode which mocked the Church of Scientology and several celebrity followers.

Matt Stone, a co-creator of South Park, told the Associated Press that "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."

Stone claimed that "[Hayes] wants a different standard for religions other than his own, and to me, that is where intolerance and bigotry begin."

Trey Parker had earlier explained that Hayes was the only reason Scientology had not been the subject of a South Park episode sooner. He said, "To be honest, what kept us from doing it before was Isaac Hayes. We knew he was a Scientologist and he's an awesome guy. We were like, 'Let's just avoid that for now.'"

Stone & Parker decided to create the episode after hearing that comedian Penn Jillette had been barred from poking fun at the controversial religion on his cable show Penn & Teller: Bullshit!.

In January of 2006, Comedy Central's United Kingdom affiliate removed the episode Trapped in the Closet from its broadcast schedule, reportedly to avoid legal action by actor Tom Cruise.

According to an article by Roger Friedman at Foxnews on March 20th, Hayes might not have quit South Park himself. Friedman questions the statement of Mr. Hayes, and points to the information that Mr. Hayes suffered from a minor stroke on January 17th, and may not have been alone in the decision.