Gay groups are calling on South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint to apologize after telling a group of conservatives that schools should reject gay and lesbian teachers, the Spartanburg Herald-Journal reported.

In a speech Friday night at a Spartanburg Baptist Church, the 59-year-old Republican said gay men, lesbians and sexually active unmarried women are not fit to teach children, and suggested that not banning such groups would be un-Christian.

“[When I said those thing], no one came to my defense,” DeMint told the crowd, referring to comments he first made back in 2004. “But everyone would come to me and whisper that I shouldn't back down. They don't want government purging their rights and their freedom to religion.”

Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, a gay rights group, called the senator's remarks “irresponsible.”

“It is salt in the wound in our community. It's irresponsible for Senator DeMint to reassert this position in this day and age. I would ask him to apologize.”

“I can't imagine what people think is 'moral' about job discrimination,” the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation's largest gay rights advocate, said in a statement.

A DeMint spokesman told all-things-political website Talking Point Memo that the senator was “making a point about how the media attacks people for holding a moral opinion.”

South Carolina voters are likely to return DeMint to Washington in November. His rival, Democrat Alvin Greene, is considered a long-shot.