Over one hundred faith leaders have signed a letter addressed to President Barack Obama urging him to minimise a religious exemption in his upcoming executive order, which serves to protect LGBT people from discrimination.

If included, the exemption would allow companies and service agencies with federal contracts, including some big-name corporations that do business with federal government, to fire LGBT people for religious reasons.

Signers of the letter include five seminary presidents, four former members of the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, and five members of a presidential taskforce to reform The Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

The letter stated: “We urge you not to include a religious exemption in the executive order. In keeping with the principle that our government must adhere to the highest standards of ethics and fairness in its own operations, we believe that public dollars should not be used to sanction discrimination.

“Increasing the obstacles faced by those at the margins is precisely the opposite of what public service can and should do, and is precisely the opposite of the values we stand for as people of faith.

“An executive order that allows for religious discrimination against LGBT people contradicts the order’s fundamental purpose, as well as the belief shared by more and more Americans every day, which is that LGBT people should not be treated as second-class citizens. An exception would set a terrible precedent by denying true equality for LGBT people, while simultaneously opening a Pandora’s Box inviting other forms of discrimination.”