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Hayes Quits Because of Scientology Jabs

WWW- SOUL man-turned-Scientologist Isaac Hayes, the voice of Chef on Comedy Central hit “South Park” since 1997, has quit the show because of an episode that poked fun at his controversial faith.

The “Shaft” singer is apparently still steamed about an episode titled “Trapped in the Closet” that premiered last November. The show skewered Scientology and its most famous convert, Tom Cruise, who somehow ends up getting stuck in a closet and is urged to “just come out.”

In a statement yesterday, Hayes 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. 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.”

“South Park” co-creator Matt Stone fired back: “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.’

“In ten years and over 150 episodes of ‘South Park,’ Isaac never had a problem 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. To bring the civil rights struggle into this is just a non sequiter. Of course we will release Isaac from his contract and we wish him well.”

Stone and his partner, Trey Parker, have said they avoided mocking Scientology for years because they didn’t want to upset Hayes, whose rumbling baritone provides the voice for horny cook Chef on Comedy Central’s highest-rated show.

Parker explained last year: “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’re like, ‘Let’s just avoid that for now.’ ”

But Stone and Parker apparently changed their minds when they learned their illusionist pal Penn Jillette had been banned from making fun of Scientology on his Showtime series, “Bulls – – t.”

“Finally, we just had to tell Isaac, ‘Dude, we totally love working with you, and this is nothing personal, it’s just we’re ‘South Park,’ and if we don’t do this, we’re belitting everything else we’ve ripped on,’ ” Parker said.

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