Saying he's become uncomfortable with "South Park's" frequent jabs at organized religion, Isaac Hayes has asked to be let out of his contract as the voice of Chef on the show.
The show's creators, Matt Stone and Trey Parker, say they'll grant the request, but not before calling Hayes out about his own affiliation with Scientology, at which "South Park" recently poked a great deal of fun.
A statement from Hayes' representatives say the "Shaft" composer and soul singer, who's voiced Chef on the Comedy Central cartoon since 1997, wants to leave the show "because of recent episodes and press that have embarked upon what he feels are inappropriate ridicule of religious communities." The statement also mentions the Danish newspaper cartoons of the prophet Muhammad that have sparked riots across the Muslim world.
"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."
In a statement of his own, Stone notes that Hayes had never in the past voiced concern about episodes that lampooned religious convictions.
"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,'" Stone says. "In 10 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."
That said, Stone adds, "Of course we will release Isaac from his contract and we wish him well."