South Park creators 'investigated by Church of Scientology'
THE creators of cartoon series South Park were investigated by the Church of Scientology after screening an episode that made fun of the religion, it has been claimed.
Matt Stone and Trey Parker, the US show's writers, were allegedly put under surveillance by investigators working for the church's office of special affairs.
The pair were targeted in 2006, shortly after 'Trapped in the Closet' - a South Park episode mocking Scientology and well-known believer Tom Cruise - was broadcast, it is claimed.
The allegations have been made by Marty Rathbun, a former member of the church who has released details about the inner workings of the faith since he defected in 2004.
They have been strongly denied by a Scientology spokesman, who dismissed the claims as "false" and "sensationalistic rumours".
"The tales told by the sources of this story reflect the type of mindset that resulted in their removals and later expulsion from the Church," spokesman Karin Pouw said. "They are neither current nor credible sources."
On his blog, Rathbun posts what he claims to be an internal memo from April 16, 2006, written by the commanding officer from the office of special affairs.
It appears to show that Stone and Parker were put under surveillance by private detectives working for the church in a bid to uncover information that would help discredit their reputations.
The memo reads: "To find a direct line into Stone and Parker some of their friends have been identified."
These friends included Hollywood screenwriter Matthew Prager, actor John Stamos, model Rebecca Romjin and South Park co-writer David Goodman.
It continues: "These connections are being PRC'd", which refers to a carrying out an extensive public records check on the everything ever written about the individual.
"There are some strings that will be pulled on the PRC on Stone," the memo goes on. "Otherwise the special collections will be debugged in order to get some viable strings that can be pulled."
Rathbun claims the memo is part of a "trove" of unseen documents detailing the church's efforts to undermine the South Park creators.
He says he intends to release a number of related documents over the coming weeks.
But the Church of Scientology insisted it "knows nothing about the document."
"As to South Park, the Church has nothing to say," the spokesman said. "We haven’t heard about the show in years. The record shows that since the show aired, the Church never did a thing."
The attack on the Comedy Central cartoon allegedly started shortly after the screening of the controversial episode that mocked the religion.
'Trapped in the Closet', in which church elders believe South Park character Stan is a reincarnation of Scientology founder L Ron Hubbard, was banned in the UK for several years because of libel concerns.
When it was eventually broadcast in Britain, the episode became one of the most-watched in the show's history.