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South Park’ voice actor quits after episode targets Church of Scientology

By Erin Carlson The Associated Press

NEW YORK – Isaac Hayes has quit “South Park,” where he voices Chef, saying he can no longer stomach its take on religion.

Hayes, who has played the ladies’ man/school cook in the animated Comedy Central satire since 1997, said in a statement yesterday that he feels a line has been crossed.

“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 honored,” he continued. “As a civil rights activist of the past 40 years, I cannot support a show that disrespects those beliefs and practices.”

“South Park” co-creator Matt Stone responded sharply in an interview with The Associated Press yesterday, saying, “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.”

Last November, “South Park” targeted the Church of Scientology and its celebrity followers, including actors Tom Cruise and John Travolta, in a top-rated episode called “Trapped in the Closet.” In the episode, Stan, one of the show’s four mischievous fourth graders, is hailed as a reluctant savior by Scientology leaders, while a cartoon Cruise locks himself in a closet and won’t come out.

Stone told The AP he and co-creator Trey Parker “never heard a peep out of Isaac in any way until we did Scientology. He wants a different standard for religions other than his own, and to me, that is where intolerance and bigotry begin.”

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