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Last Updated: Tuesday, 14 March 2006, 10:01 GMT
Hayes leaves 'bigoted' South Park
Isaac Hayes
Hayes is best known for the hit theme tune to the 1971 film Shaft
Singer Isaac Hayes is to stop providing the voice for a character in cartoon South Park because he objects to its "inappropriate ridicule" of religion.

Hayes, 63, who is the voice of the lustful Chef, has been a regular on the show since its US TV debut in 1997.

But co-creator Matt Stone said Hayes had "never had a problem" until the Scientology Church, to which Hayes belongs, was parodied.

The show was insensitive to "personal spiritual beliefs", said Hayes.

"There is a place in this world for satire but there is a time when satire ends and intolerance and bigotry toward religious beliefs begins," he said.

'Religious sensitivity'

Co-creator Stone said Hayes would be released from his contract and had the best wishes of the South Park team.

Stone said: "In 10 years and over 150 episodes of South Park, Isaac never had a problem with the show making fun of Christians, Muslim, Mormons or Jews.

"He got a sudden case of religious sensitivity when it was his religion featured on the show."

The series tells the story of four boys in a dysfunctional Colorado town and regularly deals with sensitive subjects and sends up famous figures.

South Park
Jesus appears regularly as a TV presenter in South Park

In a recent episode, one of the gang, Stan, did so well in a Scientology test that church followers thought he was the next L Ron Hubbard, the late science-fiction writer who founded Scientology.

Hayes did not take part in that episode but has talked widely about his work for Scientology, which he calls "an applied religious philosophy".

A spokesman for the show's makers Comedy Central said producers had not decided if Chef would be dropped from the show.

The show sparked another religious row recently when an episode entitled Bloody Mary depicted a bleeding statue of the Virgin Mary.

Catholics in the US criticised the show while church leaders in New Zealand called for a boycott of a broadcaster which planned to screen the episode.

Osama Bin Laden was killed in another episode of the programme, which has seen guest cameos by the likes of George Clooney, who voiced a pet dog.

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