Former child actor Kirk Cameron has responded to fierce criticism of his comments about gays at the weekend denying they were ‘not loving’, and claiming he has been ‘slandered’ and unfairly accused of hate speech.

In an interview with Piers Morgan on Sunday night, the former Growing Pains actor had said homosexuality was “unnatural” and “ultimately destructive to so many of the foundations of civilization”.

But following a backlash, Cameron says he should have been able to express the opinions without being “slandered” and insists he loves “all people”.

In a statement sent exclusively to ABC News, Cameron said: “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.”

Herndon Graddick of GLAAD said the comments “might be ‘loving’ in Kirk Cameron’s mind, but it’s gay youth and victims of bullying who truly suffer from adults like Cameron who espouse these ideas”.

He added: “Obviously, Cameron has the right to recite his anti-gay talking points, just like fair-minded Americans have the right to tell him that his views are harmful and have no place in modern America.”

6,400 people have signed a GLAAD petition telling Cameron it is “time to finally grow up”.

Actor Alan Thicke, who starred alongside Cameron in Growing Pains tweeted: “I’m getting him some new books. The Old Testament simply can’t be expected to explain everything… I love Kirk but I may have to spank him…’tho not in a gay way!”

Stephen Baldwin and George Takei appeared on HLN’s Showbiz Tonight and discussed Cameron’s comments.

After Cameron’s interview, Baldwin had tweeted: “GREAT JOB Kirk !!! Let’s pray one day Piers Morgan finds true Salvation, God Bless!”

Takei said: “We have to remember yours is a faith-based opinion, and what we’re talking about is civil law, apart from your faith […] if you want respect from us for your faith, that respect has to be mutual.”

After Baldwin spoke of a “gay lifestyle”, Takei said being gay was was not akin to leading “a surfer lifestyle”.

Baldwin queried why Cameron had been vilified but Cynthia Nixon had not received as much backlash: “So when Cynthia Nixon said it’s a choice, where’s everybody asking her about what she means by that and is that right or wrong? Can somebody help me with that?”