Oscar-winning singer and Scientologist Isaac Hayes

Outspoken Scientologist Isaac Hayes, an Oscar-winning singer heard by millions in recent years as the “Chef” character on “South Park,” has quit the cartoon four months after an episode spoofing Scientology.

“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 63-year-old soul singer said in a statement.

“Religious beliefs are sacred to people, and at all times should be respected and honored,” he continued, never mentioning the Scientology episode, but citing the recent controversy over cartoon depictions of the prophet Muhammad. “As a civil-rights activist of the past 40 years, I cannot support a show that disrespects those beliefs and practices.”

In an interview with the Associated Press, “South Park” co-creator Matt Stone responded sharply, saying, “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.”

He said 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.”

In a previous interview published by ContactMusic.com, Parker said they avoided animated shows about Scientology for years because they didn’t wish to upset Hayes, who gained fame in the 1970s with his song, “Shaft,” from the movie of the same name.

“To be honest, what kept us from doing it before was Isaac Hayes. We knew he was a Scientologist and he’s an awesome guy. We’re like, ‘Let’s just avoid that for now,'” Parker said. “Finally, we just had to tell Isaac, ‘Dude, we totally love working with you, and this is nothing personal, it’s just we’re South Park, and if we don’t do this, we’re belittling everything else we’ve ripped on.'”

The episode that focused on Scientology originally aired on Comedy Central in November, and did not include Hayes’ name in the end credits.

Greta Van Susteren of Fox News is a Scientologist

It featured a cartoon boy on the show being mistaken for L. Ron Hubbard, the science-fiction writer who founded the religion. A portion of the show had Scientologists explaining the basic beliefs of the faith, including aliens populating the Earth, with a statement that flashed on screen reading, “This is what Scientologists actually believe.” (Click here to view that portion of the program.)

The faith has been featured prominently in the media in recent years, with high-profile members including John Travolta, Tom Cruise, Patrick Swayze and Fox News Channel host Greta Van Susteren.

“South Park” became an instant hit after its original animated short in the late 1990s depicted Jesus in a fierce battle against Santa Claus over the meaning of Christmas.

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