Miss., Vt., polar opposites on Sunday mornings

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(RNS) The South continues to live up to its Bible Belt reputation, especially Mississippi, which reported the nation’s highest church-going statistics in a new Gallup Poll.

At 68 percent, Mississippi had the highest percentage of weekly church-goers in 2009, Gallup said. Vermont remained the least church-going state, with only 23 percent regularly attending. The top and bottom rankings remained unchanged from last year.

Out of the top 10 states, nine are in the South. Utah’s large Mormon population boosts it to the top as well, making it the odd state in the West. States in the West and all of New England were among the least church-going.

The poll’s margin of error is plus or minus 1 percentage point.

In addition to Mississippi and Utah, the most church-going states are South Carolina, Louisiana, Tennessee, Arkansas, North Carolina, Georgia and Texas.

The lowest church-attending states were reported in New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut, Nevada, Hawaii, Oregon, Alaska and Washington.

Nationally, 41.6 percent of Americans reported attending church at least once a week in 2009. Following are the top five and bottom five states for percentages of people regularly in the pews:

Top Five:

Mississippi (63 percent)

Alabama (58 percent)

South Carolina (56 percent)

Louisiana (56 percent)

Utah (56 percent)

Bottom Five:

Vermont (23 percent)

New Hampshire (26 percent)

Maine (27 percent)

Massachusetts (29 percent)

Nevada (30 percent)

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