Scientologist Hayes earned our respect

Posted: August 16, 2008 in Daily Rant

Criticism of the Memphis icon’s religion has turned out to be a disappointing distraction in the wake of his death.

CommercialAppeal.com | Memphis

A tribute to soul singer Isaac Hayes will be held Monday at the Hope Presbyterian Church in Cordova. A focus on anything but the man, his art and his humanity would be disrespectful to a giant of Memphis music.

Disappointing is too mild a word for the intolerance that has surfaced since Hayes’ death last Sunday because he chose to practice Scientology. With Lisa Marie Presley, Hayes founded the Memphis mission of the church, which has attracted ridicule because of its offbeat doctrine and a roster of celebrity believers such as Hayes, Tom Cruise and John Travolta.

As peculiar and controversial as the church may be, it was the singer-actor’s personal choice and deserves respect — respect that Hayes himself asked for two years ago when he resigned from the Comedy Central satire “South Park” because it had “crossed the line,” he said, in a send-up of his religion.

The resignation was a major sacrifice for Hayes, who depended on the show for income after losing the rights to many of his songs. And yet even in death, Hayes is being publicly disrespected for a personal choice he had a right to make.

The comments on this newspaper’s Web site demonstrated how fragile the veneer of public civility can be when anonymity is granted. The criticism of Hope Presbyterian, particularly when it was reported that a Scientology minister was expected to lead the ceremony, revealed how easily the vein of hostility toward people of a minority faith can be opened.

Hope Presbyterian will be the site of the tribute because it has a 5,000-seat sanctuary and audio-video equipment of sufficient quality for a sendoff that a man of Hayes’ genius deserves. With his instrumental talent, his resonant voice and his creativity, Hayes left a great legacy that will be marred if critics of his religion continue to exploit his death to satisfy personal agendas.

As Hope Presbyterian senior pastor Craig Strickland explained in Friday’s editions, the tribute is for the community and not unlike other occasions when Hope has opened its space to the public. This community owes a debt to Hayes for the joy his music elicited and the positive image he helped produce for this city’s creative community.

Pounding away at his religious preference is not the way to repay him.

In fairness to the rest of humanity, respect is only as good as the circle within which it is valued. You personally, or on behalf of the publication, do not garner any more authority to speak on what IS or IS NOT intolerant — any more than the typical “man on the street.” Your lack of knowledge about the so-called religion of Scientology is obvious. Although we have no certainty about Mr. Hayes “level” of adherance to Scientology’s principles, we can be sure of one thing … he was at the very least “associated” with a belief system that has only stood the test of time through its own version of intolerance, intimidation and litigation against those who have chosen to speak out against it.

Ignorance on your behalf is not an excuse for speaking critically of a movement which has sprung up world-wide to expose what Scientology is really about. This is not about Isaac Hayes and whatever you have read that served to demean him for his “religious” choice is isolated and out of the main stream. Respect for an individual’s talent and/or accomplishments can always be separated from their associations. We can hold individuals in high esteem but draw attention to organizations, societies or groups that they may belong to.

Isaac Hayes’ talent is in no need of defense, and certainly not from a “public opinion attorney” who brings no evidence to the courtroom. We will let his music and reputation stand … his humanity contained a flaw which placed faith in the greatest “ponzi scheme” of the last century. Better folks than Hayes have been duped by similar ideologies, and he can certainly be laid to rest with good memories and whatever respect he deserves. Those of of us who believe he was dead wrong about religion will continue to expose the criminal nature and human abuses of David Miscavige’s Scientology.

I’m sure your editorial was well meaning, and your “opinion” has been heard. We will place among all the others in the vast sea of public opinion. May the best man win.

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