Issac Hayes Leaves South Park

Soul music veteran Isaac Hayes, the voice of the libidinous character Chef on the satiric South Park, said on Monday he was leaving the show, citing its “inappropriate ridicule” of religion.

There is a place in this world for satire, but there is a time when satire ends and intolerance and bigotry toward religious beliefs and others begins,” Hayes said in a statement issued through his spokesman in New York. Hayes, 63, a follower of the Church of Scientology, did not mention a episode of the show that aired last fall poking fun at Scientology and some of its celebrity adherents, including actor Tom Cruise.

Rather, the statement said the show’s parody of religion is part of what Hayes sees as a “growing insensitivity toward personal spiritual beliefs” in the media generally, including the recent controversy over a Danish cartoon depiction of the Muslim Prophet Mohammad. The soul singer, who became the first black composer to win an Academy Award for best song with his theme to the film Shaft, said he formally asked to be released from his contract with South Park, on the Comedy Central cable channel.

A spokesman for the Viacom Inc.-owned network said producers of the show and its creators, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, had agreed to not to “enforce” Hayes’ contract. “Obviously, Matt and Trey are disappointed that he’s not going to be part of the show, but they’re not going to make him do something he doesn’t want to do,” the spokesman, Tony Fox, told Reuters. However, he said Stone and Parker “feel that it’s a bit disingenuous (for Hayes) to cite religious intolerance as a reason for him pulling out of the show” because the series has lampooned religion since the start, dating back to the short film, The Spirit of Christmas, on which the series is based.