Russian prosecutors try to ban South Park

Russian prosecutors have filed a motion to ban the Emmy-winning American cartoon series South Park after viewer complaints about its content from religious groups.

Russian prosecutors have filed a motion to ban the Emmy-winning American cartoon series South Park after viewer complaints about its "extremist" content.

"It offends the honour and dignity of Christians and Muslims alike, and affronts believers, regardless of their faith [and] could provoke ethnic conflict and spark inter-religious hatred," said a statement released Monday by the Moscow Prosecutor General's Office.

Prosecutors have referred the case to court and sent a warning to the channel, 2X2, which airs the series.  A court date has yet to be set.

South Park is an adult-themed cartoon about a group of foul-mouthed nine-year-olds in a Colorado town. Since its 1997 debut, the show has parodied politicians, religion, celebrities and gay marriage.

The cartoon is often the target of criticism from religious groups including the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights in the U.S., which tried to have it removed from Comedy Central.

The Russian Union of Christians of Evangelical Faith has filed a formal demand to ban the series after it said it had reports from 20 experts who had studied the show's effect on young people.

"South Park is just one of many cartoons that need to be banned from open broadcast... as it insults the feelings of religious believers and incites religious and national hatred," The group's leader, Konstantin Bendas.

Offended by 'Mr. Hankey's Christmas Classics' episode

Bendas' group is citing by a 2006 law that expanded the definition of extremism to include "the abasement of national dignity" and "inciting religious and national hatred."

He says his organization is particularly disturbed by the episode, Mr. Hankey's Christmas Classics, which features the cast singing Christmas carols. The episode depicts Adolf Hitler singing O Tannenbaum, Satan performing Christmas Time in Hell and various, altered versions of popular festive songs.

"It's one thing if they are on cable TV and viewers pay money and make a conscious choice. But young children should not be able to turn on the TV after school and watch this. They need to be defended," Bendas said.

This is not the first time 2X2 has clashed with religious groups and authorities.

Last year, Christian and Muslim organizations united to try to get the channel off air. They claim 2X2 airs content that is anti-religious, violent as well as promoting homosexuality.

In February 2008, Rossvyazokhrankultura, a regulatory body for television in Russia, issued warnings to the channel, urging it to remove two other series from the air.

The Happy Tree Friends cartoon is almost dialogue-free and features extreme violence while The Adventures of Big Jeff is a 90-second animation starring a naked Australian on roller skates.