Oh my god! Scientologists probed 'South Park' makers

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The Independent Online

The Church of Scientology isn't prepared to sit back and let influential Hollywood types poke fun at it. Just ask Matt Stone and Trey Parker, the creators of South Park.

According to a newly-leaked email, their private lives have been probed by investigators working for the Church's PR department.

They appear to have ended up in the firing line in 2006, not long after the broadcast of "Trapped in the Closet", a controversial episode of the adult cartoon which attempted to mock the Church's science fiction-based theology. According to an internal memo, Scientology's Office of Special Affairs (OSA) mounted an investigation into Parker and Stone's circle of close friends, seeking "viable strings that can be pulled" to either discredit the duo, or to persuade them to refrain from satirising the Church in future.

"To find a direct line into Stone and Parker, some of their friends have been identified," reads the email. They included Matthew Prager, a Hollywood screenwriter, actors John Stamos and Rebecca Romijn, and Dave Goodman, a writer who was at college with the duo. The memo says that each of these individuals is being "PRC'd", a term used by private detectives to describe checking every public record available about a particular target, in search of a potential vulnerability.

Stone and Parker have for years used South Park to satirise almost every organised religion, sometimes with awkward consequences. "Trapped in the Closet", featuring an unflattering portrayal of Tom Cruise, was a case in point. It wasn't broadcast in the UK for several years, due to our strict libel laws. Controversy about the plot, in which Church elders decide that South Park character Stan is the re-incarnation of L Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology, eventually resulted in it becoming one of the most-watched episodes in the show's history.

The Church of Scientology, which didn't return messages seeking comment, seems well acquainted with Stone and Parker's oeuvre. "They consider that what they do is satire and that they attack anyone or any group without any regard for who they are or what they are," notes the memo. "They love it when they get some reaction."