The Church of Scientology investigated the private lives of South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker in a bid to embarrass them in retaliation for an episode that poked fun at the controversial religion, it has been alleged.

According to an internal memorandum, leaked by a former high-level Scientologist, the church’s Office of Special Affairs launched an investigation into the duo to dig up some dirt.

The memo reads: “To find a direct line into Stone and Parker, some of their friends have been identified.”

The memo, written in 2006, goes on to say that some of these friends – including actors John Stamos and Rebecca Romjin – are being “PRC’d”, which is a term used by private detectives for checking public records about a target to identify their vulnerabilities.

Another passage reads: “There are some strings that will be pulled on the PRC on Stone. Otherwise the special collections [a term apparently referring to information gathered using covert surveillance] will be debugged in order to get some viable strings that can be pulled.”

Former Scientology executive Marty Rathbun released the document on his blog. He has referred to the church’s Office of Special Affairs (OSA) as “the harassment and terror network of Corporate Scientology”.

Other claims made by Rathbun include that the OSA regularly uses investigation, threats and infiltration to bring down critics of the religion, and that it goes so far as to search the rubbish bins of targets.

“They’ll read stuff into the kind of alcohol you’re drinking and how much. Prescriptions. They’ll figure out your diet,” said Rathbun. “They can find out a lot about you through your trash.”

It is unclear whether the OSA managed to find any information of use during its investigation of Parker and Stone. However, it is alleged that the OSA’s usual methods were not producing satisfactory results, and that in a bid to get better intelligence, the office planned to employ a film student to intern on South Park and gather intelligence. Again, it is unclear whether these alleged plans came to fruition.

The offending South Park episode, ‘Trapped in the Closet’, mercilessly mocked the religion’s beliefs and took a number of swipes at high-profile church member Tom Cruise.

The satirical show has left few organised religions unscathed, if any.

A spokesperson for Scientology reportedly told US gossip website E! Online that “the church at no time authorised any of the actions suggested in the statement.”