Isaac Hayes is being remembered in many ways today, but here at the religion desk, we pause to recall his staunch defense of Scientology, which led him to resign as the voice of Chef (right) on "South Park" to protest an episode that mocked his faith. The "South Park" folks, in return, killed him off, or at least seemed to.
The incident in which Chef is killed (which originally aired on March 22, 2006) is too gruesome for me to post (and it's not funny either, IMHO), but for a taste of what got Hayes so exercised, below is a clip called "Stan Chooses Scientology.''
The Globe's Joseph P. Kahn commented on the Hayes-South Park dust-up in 2006, writing:
"Hayes played Chef on 'South Park' for nine irreverent years, during which the show mocked virtually every religious group under the sun. Nevertheless, he asked to be contractually released Monday, saying, 'Religious beliefs are sacred to people, and at all times should be respected and honored.'"
And in the New York Times, also in 2006, Alessandra Stanley reflected on the relationship between celebrity, Scientology and South Park, writing:
"Isaac Hayes left 'South Park' after an episode of the animated series on Comedy Central savagely mocked his religion, the Church of Scientology, and its most famous follower, Tom Cruise. Earlier this month, Comedy Central pulled a rerun of the offending episode, 'Trapped in the Closet,' after speculation that Mr. Cruise was displeased. Viacom, the parent company of Paramount, is about to release Mr. Cruise's movie, 'Mission: Impossible III.' Oh, and Viacom also owns Comedy Central. It looks like two sides are pretty much even. Yet the creators of 'South Park' didn't make fun of Viacom's pliability on the premiere of the show's 10th season Wednesday night. Instead, Matt Stone and Trey Parker reserved their scorn for Mr. Hayes and the Church of Scientology: the episode was entirely devoted to portraying Mr. Hayes's character, Chef, as the victim of a sinister brainwashing cult."
(BTW, if you visit the South Park web site today, among the top searches, not surprisingly, is Isaac Hayes.)