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Christian extremism raises alarm

A trial resumes today for a Slavic man charged with killing a gay man in Sacramento, Calif.

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A hate-crime trial reconvenes Friday in a case that's dividing Sacramento and drawing attention from organizations that monitor extremists.

Alex Shevchenko has been arraigned for a hate crime tied to the assault and eventual death of Satender Singh in July. According to prosecutors, Mr. Shevchenko and Andrey Vusik taunted Mr. Singh in a park because they thought he was gay. Mr. Vusik eventually threw a punch that toppled Singh, dashing his head, they charge.

Gay leaders in Sacramento say the incident followed several years of escalating tensions with some Slavic immigrants.

"The gut feeling of the [gay] community is that preaching among the local Russian evangelical community is breeding hate and that something would happen. And Satender was the something that happened," says Ed Bennett, a gay Democratic activist.

While Slavic leaders say their community is being unfairly scapegoated for legitimate political protests and deeply held religious beliefs, some monitors warn that an emerging group called the Watchmen on the Walls may be fomenting a dangerous atmosphere within the ranks of Slavic immigrants here.

"This group has engaged in extremely vicious antigay propaganda, and oftentimes it is that kind of propaganda that is taken by hate criminals as permission to go ahead and attack," says Mark Potok, editor of the Southern Poverty Law Center's "Intelligence Report," which tracks hate crimes nationwide.

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