Left Aims to Smite 'Theocracy' Movement; * Conferees Decry the Religious Right's 'Influence on American Politics and Policy.'

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NEW YORK - Secular humanists and leftist activists convened here over the weekend to strategize how to counter what they contend is a growing political threat from Christian conservatives.

Understanding and answering the "religious far right" that propelled President Bush's re-election is key to preventing a "theocracy" from governing the nation, speakers argued at a weekend conference.

"The religious right now has an unprecedented influence on American politics and policy," said Ralph White, co-founder of the Open Center, a New York City institution focused on holistic learning. "It is incumbent upon all of us to understand as precisely as possible its aims, methods, beliefs, theology and psychology."

The Open Center, founded 21 years ago, played host to the two-day conference at City College of New York called "Examining the Real Agenda of the Religious Far Right."

People for the American Way, a liberal advocacy group that opposes religion in the public square, co-sponsored the conference, which drew about 500 participants.

"This may be the darkest time in our history," said Bob Edgar, general secretary of the left-leaning National Council of Churches and former six-term Democratic congressman from Pennsylvania. "The religious right have been systematically working at this for 40 years. The question is, where is the religious left?"

Speakers outlined such concepts - others would say conspiracy theories - as Christian reconstructionism and dominionism to a crowd that Mr. White said does "not understand the further reaches of religion."

Dominionism is the theory that the account in Genesis in which God gave man dominion over the earth has become a political teaching advocating that Christians gain and hold power. Christian reconstructionism is the theory that Christian conservatives intend to impose Old Testament law in America.

The United States is "not yet a theocracy," Joan Bokaer, founder of TheocracyWatch.org, said Friday night, but she argued that "the United States is beginning to fit the model of a reconstructed America."

Tax cuts combined with increased funding for faith-based social programs and decreases in welfare spending, Ms. Bokaer said, were examples of "the theological right ... zealously setting up to establish their beliefs in all aspects of our society. …