NEW YORK – "South Park" has declared war on Scientology. Matt Stone and Trey Parker, creators of the animated satire, are digging in against the celebrity-endorsed religion after a controversial episode mocking outspoken Scientologist Tom Cruise was yanked abruptly from the schedule Wednesday — with Internet rumors it was covert warfare by Cruise that led to its departure.
"So, Scientology, you may have won THIS battle, but the million-year war for earth has just begun!" the "South Park" creators said in a statement Friday in Daily Variety. "Temporarily anozinizing our episode will NOT stop us from keeping Thetans forever trapped in your pitiful man-bodies... You have obsructed us for now, but your feeble bid to save humanity will fail!"
Internet bloggers accused Cruise of threatening to not promote "Mission Impossible 3," a surefire summer blockbuster, if the offending episode ran. Comedy Central is owned by Viacom, as is Paramount, which is putting out "MI:3."
But Cruise's representative, Arnold Robinson, told The Associated Press Friday that the mega-star made no such demands.
"Not true," Robinson said. "I can tell you that he never said that."
A call by The Associated Press to a Paramount representative was not returned Friday.
The episode in question, "Trapped in the Closet," which first aired last November, shows Scientology leaders hailing Stan, one of the show's four devilish fourth graders, as a savior. A cartoon Cruise locks himself in a closet and won't come out. An animated John Travolta, another famous Scientologist, enters the closet to try to get him out.
In another dig at the famously secretive religion, the credits at show's end are filled with names like "John Smith" and "Jane Smith."
The battle began in earnest earlier this week when Isaac Hayes, another celebrity Scientologist and longtime show member — voicing the ladies' man Chef — quit the show, saying he could no longer tolerate its religious "intolerance and bigotry."
Stone and Parker didn't buy that either.
On Monday, Stone told The Associated Press, "This is 100 percent having to do with his faith in Scientology...He has no problem — and he's cashed plenty of checks — with our show making fun of Christians."
A Comedy Central spokesman said Friday that the network pulled the controversial episode to make room for two shows featuring Hayes.
"In light of the events of earlier this week, we wanted to give Chef an appropriate tribute by airing two episodes he is most known for," the spokesman said.