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SYLACAUGA, Ala. – There's a shift going on in the South: Churches are losing their grip on a region where they could long set community standards.
Youth sports teams now practice and play on Sundays, which were once off-limits because of church services. All but two Southern states have lotteries, and dozens of businesses in Mississippi now display gay-friendly stickers without fear of church-based repercussions.
In the central Alabama town of Sylacauga, the change is evident in bars that can now open on Sunday because of a recent citywide vote.
A recent survey by the Pew Research Center shows 19 percent of Southerners don't identify with any organized religion, up 6 percentage points since 2007.
Pew researcher Jessica Martinez says the South is becoming more like the rest of the United States.