South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone have all but declared war on the Church of Scientology following member Tom Cruise's successful move to have episode Trapped in the Closet pulled from US screens.
Comedy Central canned a repeat of the offending programme due to air last Wednesday, provoking the show's creators to declare to Variety: "So, Scientology, you may have won THIS battle, but the million-year war for earth has just begun! Temporarily anozinizing our episode will NOT stop us from keeping Thetans forever trapped in your pitiful man-bodies.
"Curses and drat! You have obstructed us for now, but your feeble bid to save humanity will fail! Hail Xenu!!!"
The episode which initially provoked the titanic struggle between Scientology and South Park features Tom Cruise refusing to come out of the closet into which he has locked himself after Stan - believed by the Cruise character to be the reincarnation of Scientology founder L Ron Hubbard - unfavourably compared Cruise's acting abilities to those of Leonardo di Caprio. The programme rolls out a continual stream of characters - including Nicole Kidman and fellow Scientologist John Travolta - begging the Mission Impossible star to "come out of the closet", without success.
Despite Parker and Stone's sabre-rattling, The Church of Scientology won a significant victory last week when Isaac Hayes - who had played Chef since 1997 - quit South Park due to its "inappropriate ridicule" of religion.
Scientologist Hayes said: "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."
Stone responded: "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."
Hayes' resignation seems to have been the reason behind Comedy Central's decision to axe the Trapped in the Closet repeat. The channel replaced it with another episode featuring Chef and his tasty "Chocolate Salty Balls". ®