(RNS) White House spokesman Joe Lockhart has apologized for hiscomments linking the Southern Baptist Convention to organizations that"perpetuate ancient religious hatred."

Responding to a letter from two Republican congressmen declaringPresident Clinton should demand Lockhart's resignation, the spokesmansaid he was sorry if his words made it appear he was criticizingSouthern Baptists.

"It was certainly not my intention to make that case," Lockhartsaid, the Associated Press reported.

Lockhart said he was attempting to focus on the president'slong-held support of religious tolerance and "it was never my intentionto single anyone out" when he responded to a question about the allegedperpetuating of religious hatred.

The Dec. 23 letter from Reps. J.C. Watts, R-Okla., and J.D.Hayworth, R-Ariz., said Lockhart's comments were "blatant bigotryagainst a particular religious group."

Southern Baptist leaders also voiced strong opposition to Lockhart'sremarks.