The opening shot was, of course, the infamous South Park episode last November that mocked the “secret teachings” of the Church of Scientology.
Last week, Isaac hayes, who voices the character Chef, announced that he was quitting the show, citing religious intolerance.
“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,” the 63-year-old soul singer and outspoken Scientologist said.
“Religious beliefs are sacred to people, and at all times should be respected and honoured,” he continued. “As a civil rights activist of the past 40 years, I cannot support a show that disrespects those beliefs and practices.”
When Scientologists start whining about “intolerance and bigotry towards religious beliefs,” you can pretty much take for granted that they mean intolerance and bigotry toward Scientology religious beliefs. L. Ron Hubbard himself was known to take snarky jabs at Christianity, and Operation Clambake has a selection of audio files of the dead crook making some of his most infamous nonsensical statements, including his claim that “the man on the cross: There was no Christ.” As long as South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker, equal opportunity offenders, were taking shots at Roman Catholicism, evangelical Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Mormonism, and native spirituality being mocked, Hayes’ conscience wasn’t bothered by accepting his paycheque. But laugh at his laughable joke of a self-help science-fiction UFO cult? Ron forbid!
The next salvo was fired by Comedy Central, the cable network that owns South Park. Last Wednesday, they pulled the scheduled rerun of “Trapped in a Closet.” Rumours circulated that Tom Cruise, another high-profile Scientologist, threatened not to promote the upcoming Mission: Impossible III if the episode wasn’t deep-sixed (Comedy Central and Paramount are both owned by the Viacom conglomerate). On the other hand, Cruise’s “people” deny it, and Comedy Central claims they merely wanted to rerun some vintage episodes featuring Chef as a tribute to Hays. (It wouldn’t be the first time the cult attempted to interfere with Viacom’s programming, however.)
Parker and Stone, meanwhile, are taking the controversy in stride, saying, in a recent statement:
“So, Scientology, you may have won THIS battle but the million-year war for Earth has just begun!” the South Park creators said in a statement, apparently referencing details of Scientologists’ beliefs, in Friday’s Daily Variety.
“Temporarily anozinizing our episode will NOT stop us from keeping Thetans forever trapped in your pitiful man-bodies . . . You have obstructed us for now, but your feeble bid to save humanity will fail!”
I should start a pool. How many days until Scientology lawyers like Helena “Handbasket” Kobrin put in an appearance?