Actor Kirk Cameron has been left stunned by the harsh criticism he has been subjected to since he suggested homosexuality was "unnatural" in a recent TV interview - because those attacking him have shown a complete lack of tolerance.
The former Growing Pains star, now an evangelical Christian minister, sparked controversy last week when he spoke out against gays and lesbians during an interview on CNN's Piers Morgan Tonight, during which he stated that he thought homosexuality was "detrimental and ultimately destructive to so many of the foundations of civilization".
Gay rights activists and campaigners, including the actor's former TV co-stars Alan Thicke and Tracy Gold, were quick to address Cameron's views, and now he has responded to the more cutting remarks, insisting he doesn't deserve to be "slandered" for expressing his point of view.
Cameron tells ABC News, "I spoke as honestly as I could, but some people believe my responses were not loving toward those in the gay community. That is not true. I can assuredly say that it's my life's mission to love all people.
"I should be able to express moral views on social issues, especially those that have been the underpinning of Western civilization for 2,000 years - without being slandered, accused of hate speech, and told from those who preach 'tolerance' that I need to either bend my beliefs to their moral standards or be silent when I'm in the public square.
"I believe we need to learn how to debate these things with greater love and respect. I've been encouraged by the support of many friends (including gay friends, incidentally)."