Isaac Hayes, who does the voice of the character "Chef" on South Park has recently quit in a huff, allegedly over the show's treatment of religion (article here). Thing is, the show has been on for about nine years now and has satired religion quite extremely all along.
But recently South Park did a show on Scientology, and quite a funny one at that. As it happens, Hayes is a Scientologist. Now, suddenly, he is saying things like, "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."
The show's creators say that Hayes never had any problems with the show making fun of Christians but that this is "100 percent" about the recent episode and his being a Scientologist. It seems to me the track record is proof of Hayes' hypocrisy.
I think we should generally have respect for one another's right to believe in things they hold sacred, even if we don't agree. At the same time, I think satire has an important role to play in many ways and is, of course, within our rights - that includes satire of all religions, including Scientology.
But even though I'm okay with religious satire, I would have had a lot more respect for Hayes if he had consistently taken his stance with all religions. But to be for dishing it out and suddenly claim "respect for religion" when it comes time to take it, shows a lack of integrity.
Another interesting aspect of this:
In the episode in question, "Trapped in the Closet", there is an unusual segment where they go into what Scientologists believe. Unlike the rest of the episode (or other episodes criticizing religion), this segment carries a caption at the bottom of the screen which says something like, "This is what Scientologists really believe". During that segment, although the graphics accompanying the narration are humorous, the rendition seems to be accurate and unexaggerated based on what I've heard and read. It goes into all the business about the Thetans, the aliens, Xenu the galactic tyrant, spaceships, and so on. This is all the really freaky stuff you don't get to find out about until you've been in the religion a long time and have paid a lot of money. It's also the material that the Church of Scientology sued to keep under wraps.
Strange that Hayes never criticized the episode for being inaccurate in its claims.
UPDATE: March 18, 2006:
Apparently there is some accusation about Tom Cruise pulling his celebrity weight to get the latest scheduled rerun of the Scientology episode of South Park pulled. Whether it is true or not I can't say, but here's a link to an article on it...