Isaac Hayes gets religiously sensitive

by Jason Gross

13 March 2006


A press release from 60 Cycle media says that soul legend Hayes doesn’t wanna be the voice of Chef on the South Park show anymore because he thinks the show is getting insensitive to religious beliefs.  The creators would gleefully agree with him but you have to wonder if he hasn’t been reading the scripts for all the years that he’s worked with them.
His statement is:

“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.” Mr. Hayes adds, “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.”

No doubt that he’s thinking of the recent uproar over the Danish cartoons of Mohammed when he says this but also that the South Park people are dying to fan some flames here over such controversies.

Before his quote above, the press release also has this information:

While fully acknowledging “South Park’s” right to freedom of speech, Mr. Hayes is disappointed with what he perceives as a growing insensitivity towards personal spiritual beliefs, not only with South Parkғ episodes but also the recent Danish cartoon controversy.

The two schools of thought about how to deal with the Mohammed cartoon controversy go like this: 1) It’s culturally insensitive and nowadays inflammatory to publish the cartoons, or 2) It’s freedom of press and if we let religious extremists decide what can or can’t go into print, then we become part of their theocracy.  I definitely sympathize with the first view but have to say that I’m more in line with the 2nd one. 

Let’s suppose that the inflammatory cartoons were about Christ instead.  Do you think that any religious groups in the State would demand boycotts or worse for the publications involved?  Of course they would.  Religious extremist is ugly in any form.

And so when another potentially inflammatory controversy may be set to erupt over cartoons lampooning religion, Hayes decides that he doesn’t want to be part of it.  It’s his decision to make but it’s not like South Park has never been disrespectful of religion before.  Christ and Satan have been characters that appear in the ‘toon and the show’s creators are only too happy to make light of them.  Hayes certainly knows this.

In light of the volatile situation over the Mohammed cartoons, he doesn’t want to be involved in South Park anymore (which he doesn’t say clearly in his statement) and that’s somewhat more understandable.  Hayes has every right to express and exercise his religious views but he should also explain why his religious views didn’t stop him for working on South Park for so long.

Maybe Hayes’ thinking is “People got mad over those religious cartoons so I don’t want to be involved in another set of religious cartoons that are going to get people mad.”  The thing is, South Park’s targets are usually Christian ones when it comes to religion.  One reason that the show doesn’t get threats and boycotts as much as you’d think is that they’re equal opportunity offenders like Howard Stern, so they also piss on the left-wing plenty, hence the term “South Park Republicans.”  Of course, the shows’ creators swear that they’re not allied with either side but like Woodward’s book on Bush, either side gleefully picks out the parts that prove their point and push/spin those tidbits their way.

Does Hayes know more than hes letting on? Surely heՕs privy to scripts and must see that the show is going into some more murky waters. But will they slap Christ as well as Mohammed in the future? If theyre going after Mohammed, maybe the expedient thing to do was to distance himself from the upcoming uproar (and thereՕll surely be one if this happens). if its a matter of him being sick of the Christ-bashing, then again, he should say why he put it with it for so long.

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