Soul legend Isaac Hayes is in the midst of trying to obtain his release from the long-running Comedy Central series “South Park,” on which he has voiced the character Chef since 1997.
In a statement, Hayes says he can no longer be a part of “South Park” due to “recent episodes and press that have embarked upon what he feels are inappropriate ridicule of religious communities.” Although not mentioned by name, Hayes is likely referring to a controversial episode that skewers the Church of Scientology, of which he is a member.
“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,” Hayes says. “Religious beliefs are sacred to people, and at all times should be respected and honored. As a civil rights activist of the past 40 years, I cannot support a show that disrespects those beliefs and practices.”
As recently as last fall, when “South Park” was renewed by Comedy Central through 2008, Hayes had nothing but good things to say about the show. “I thought this would last maybe six weeks, I’d make a little easy money,” he told Billboard.com in November. “Ten years later — hello!”
In an interview with the Associated Press, “South Park” co-creator Matt Stone said he and partner 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.”
The 10th season of “South Park” premieres March 22.