South Park's Chef may have dished out his final chocolate salty ball.
Isaac Hayes, who has voiced the highly sexed cafeteria employee on the irreverent series since 1997, issued a statement Monday indicating that he has requested to be released from his contract due to what he called the show's "inappropriate ridicule of religious communities."
"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 soul legend said. "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."
Though Hayes, a devout Scientologist, made no reference to specific episodes that he felt crossed the line, series creator Matt Stone had little doubt that Hayes' decision was triggered by the November 2005 episode "Trapped in the Closet," which satirized the religion's beliefs and practices and featured "cameos" by animated versions of
Tom Cruise and
"This is 100 percent having to do with his faith of Scientology," Stone told the Associated Press. "He has no problem--and he's cashed plenty of checks--with our show making fun of Christians."
Hayes' voice was not featured in the episode, as he was reportedly unavailable due to poor health. However, in a January 2006 interview with The A.V. Club, he explained that he had tried to correct Stone and Trey Parker's misconceptions about his religion of choice.
"Guys, you have it all wrong," Hayes said he told Stone and Parker. "We're not like that. I know that's your thing, but get your information correct, because somebody might believe that s--t, you know? But I understand what they're doing. I told them to take a couple of Scientology courses, and understand what we do."
Past episodes of South Park have skewered Catholics, Jews and Mormons, among others. However, according to Stone, he and 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," Stone told the Associated Press.
Hayes, an Oscar winner and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, got his start on South Park after heckling his agent for voiceover work in the interest of trying something different.
What was originally conceived of as a one-time appearance proved so popular that Jerome "Chef" McElroy became a reoccurring character, who has served hot lunch with a side of advice to Kenny, Kyle, Stan and Cartman for the past nine seasons.
Season 10 debuts Mar. 22, and Comedy Central has reupped the series through 2008.
In January 2006, Hayes told the New York Daily News that he loved the "humor in it, the audacity of Matt and Trey."
"Nobody is exempt from their humor," he said. "They're equal-opportunity offenders. Don't be offended by it. If you take it too seriously, you have problems."
It seems the silky-voiced crooner may have neglected to take his own advice.