“South Park” creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone are accustomed to prompting responses to their religious satire. At one end, they received an online death threat last year from a now-imprisoned Islamic extremist. At the other end, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints publicly took a positive approach to this year’s Broadway premiere of Parker and Stone’s Tony-winning musical, “The Book of Mormon.”
Now, the Village Voice is reporting that the Church of Scientology attempted to investigate Parker and Stone after a controversial 2005 episode of “South Park” titled “Trapped in a Closet.” The Emmy-nominated episode, airing on Comedy Central, satirized such figures as Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology member Tom Cruise.
According to the Voice, former Scientology executive Marty Rathbun “revealed at his blog that in 2006, Scientology's Office of Special Affairs — the church's intelligence and covert operations wing — was actively investigating” Parker and Stone.
The Voice reports Monday: “We have more leaked OSA documents which give some idea of the extent of the spying operation on the ‘South Park’ offices and the people who worked there.”
“This operation is just like the others,” Tony Ortega, the author of the Voice article, tells Comic Riffs on Monday. “Scientology goes after its perceived enemies the same way it always has: using private investigators to find vulnerabilities.” Ortega has covered Scientology extensively for the Voice.
The Church of Scientology did not return calls Monday seeking comment. Comedy Central said that the folks at “South Park” were not commenting at this time.
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The “Trapped in a Closet” episode, according to Rolling Stone, revealed “church information that Scientology normally only reveals to members who make significant monetary contributions to the church.” After the episode aired, Cruise reportedly threatened not to promote his current film for Paramount; Viacom owns both Paramount and Comedy Central.
Not long after the “Trapped in a Closet” episode” aired, soul singer Isaac Hayes — who had been a voice actor on “South Park” since the show’s 1997 debut — quit the animated program. Hayes, who died in 2008, was a vocal Scientologist.