Soft on Scientology: Will Media Cover Isaac Hayes Hiking Out of 'South Park'?

AP reports that actor and legendary soul singer Isaac Hayes has left the role of Chef on the snide adult cartoon "South Park" because he cannot abide its mockery of religion. One of the show's co-creators, Matt Stone, was quick to attack the singer's sudden departure after eight seasons:

Stone told 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...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" aired a Scientology-mocking episode where the child Stan is thought to be the second coming of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, and Hollywood celebrities come to visit. When Stan mocks Tom Cruise, the actor locks himself in Stan's closet, allowing the writers to make endless gay jokes about Cruise refusing to come out of the closet.

From NBC's Matt Lauer on down to the nightly celebrity TV shows, journalists typically go soft on Scientology to gain access to the stars, as Brent Bozell noted last summer in exploring Scientology beliefs:

Today’s shoe-shining entertainment journalism is not the ideal profession for a serious investigation of the product that Hollywood promotes – a "religion" that sounds more like psychotherapy, which hates nothing more than ... psychotherapy. According to its own 1998 book Theology and Practice, the Scientologists see counseling (or "auditing") as "the core part of Scientological religious practice." Instead of church-going or God-worshipping, the counseling is "essential for all who would experience the saving benefits of the faith." That’s a strange claim, since they also say "in Scientology no one is asked to accept anything on faith."

You can see why Hollywood elites would grasp this creed. It claims belief in a Supreme Being, but it doesn’t ask followers to figure out how to know Him or please Him: "Scientology differs from other religions in that it makes no effort to describe the exact nature or character of God." Heaven? It’s not a place, but a higher state of consciousness, where the individual "thetan" is reincarnated, or "assumes many bodies through its repeated contacts with the physical universe." Sin? Auditing helps "eliminate both the sense of sin and the effects of past suffering and wrongdoing."

As part of appealing through Hollywood to potential "church" members, Scientology advocates insist that their creed is compatible with other religions. Cruise tells TV interviewers that you can be a Catholic or a Jew and a Scientologist, too. But a quick peek at their "theology" shows that this is a sales pitch, and a sleazy one at that. It’s like saying you can both believe in salvation through Jesus and salvation through therapy, in both one life/one body and in serial reincarnation. It makes about as much sense as believing in Scientology and psychiatric drugs.

Many people believe, as I do, that Scientology is a cult, an oppressive organization that splits families and milks believers for every cent they can muster. But to entertainment journalists, Scientology is about as harmless as scuba diving.

UPDATE 11:07 by Matthew Sheffield. On a related note, TV stations carrying the syndicated version of "South Park" aired an episode Monday night called "The Super Best Friends," which featured a team of religious founders with special powers who band together to stop American magician David Blaine and his church of "Blainetology." Among the cartoonified religious figures is Muhammed who, according to the show, has the power of fire. The episode first aired in 2001 and generated no controversy from neither Hayes nor Muslims who supposedly consider depictions of Muhammed to be offensive.

Incidentally, the episode which caused Hayes to leave runs this Wednesday night at 10 and 12 on Comedy Central.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis