Two Southern Baptist congressmen have issued a letter demanding the resignation of presidential press secretary Joe Lockhart following comments Lockhart made about Southern Baptist evangelism efforts during a White House press briefing.

Reps. J.C. Watts and J.D. Hayworth wrote the December 23 letter in response to Lockhart's suggestion that Southern Baptists' efforts to minister to Muslim and Hindu groups "perpetuate religious hatred."

Meanwhile, Rep. Zach Wamp, a Tennessee Republican and Southern Baptist church member, told Baptist Press he would not rule out a resolution calling for Lockhart's ouster when Congress reconvenes.

"This is one of those moments when we Southern Baptists need to stand up and be counted," Wamp said. "I believe we need to respond to people in a spirit of love and a Christlike manner, but there are times to be tough and this is one of those times."

"No amount of spin from Mr. Lockhart can hide his blatant bigotry against one of the leading denominations in the United States," said Hayworth, a Republican from Arizona, in a prepared statement after Lockhart's December 16 comments. "He should have been fired last week, but you can never count on this White House to do what's right."

Wamp, who teaches a Sunday school class in his Chattanooga congressional district, said he first heard about Lockhart's comments during morning worship services December 26. "I believe for the president to do anything but fire Mr. Lockhart would be a double standard by the Clinton administration," he said.

Watts, an Oklahoma congressman who chairs the House Republican Conference, noted that he was "appalled to read the recent comments" by Lockhart. "What makes it even more disturbing is that in making these hateful remarks, Lockhart ...

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