The annual Bakersfield Prayer Breakfast has increasingly taken on the characteristics of a social problem, which, as defined by sociologist Paul B. Horton, is "a condition affecting a significant number of people in ways considered undesirable about which it is felt something can be done through collective social action."

Where, critics ask, are speakers representing Jews, Mormons, Muslims, and Sikhs, among others? It is wrong, some say, to exclude interfaith speakers in an event assumed to be modeled after our national prayer breakfast.

The folks organizing this event may be induced to change their behavior and direction and consequently make new efforts to become inclusive of all religious faiths. However, should their unfortunate direction reflect that which would bring credit to an assembly of stiff-necked theocrats bent on exclusivity, then a new direction in collective social action is called for.

Local leaders, religious and lay, indeed, all those who represent and prize the religious pluralism making up a significant part of our community of Bakersfield, need to come together in interfaith collective social action and protest. It might induce the current organizers to change, or, more likely , might mean that an alternate Bakersfield Interfaith Prayer Breakfast needs to be developed, with an appropriate emphasis on "Interfaith."

If we truly value and encourage "unity," religious inclusion and pluralism in Bakersfield, then the social problem presented and expressed by the current Bakersfield Prayer Breakfast with its inappropriate exclusionism needs to be addressed and solved, one way or another.

Aaron Steenbergen