TACOMA -- Washington still ranks low in religious affiliation compared to other states, according to a once-a-decade study released today.
But the Evergreen State -- known more for weekend pursuit of outdoor recreation than indoor worship -- is no longer sitting at rock bottom.
Washington was 45th among the 50 states in church attendance and membership, according to the 2010 US Religion Census.
Ten years earlier, Washington sat at 49th, followed by Oregon. This time, Maine finished last and Oregon next to last.
But a decade later, the percentage of Washingtonians attending a church, temple, synagogue or mosque was virtually the same: one in every three. The latest study reported 34.6 percent of Washington residents are attenders and members, compared with 33 percent in 2000.
The study broke down participation for 236 religious groups on a county and state basis. A total percentage of participants, called adherents, was developed using membership, attendance and other participation figures.
The Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies released the report last month.
With more complete data from more groups -- including Buddhists and non-denominational evangelical Protestants -- the statisticians group called the study the most comprehensive local-level analysis of US religious attendance in more than 60 years.
Among Washington's 39 counties, Pierce County ranked 14th with 35.3 percent affiliation. Thurston County ranked 28th with 28.9 percent. King County was 10th at 37.6 percent. Garfield County in Eastern Washington ranked first in state with 60.1 percent adherents.
The four largest religious groups in Washington were:
* Roman Catholics -- 784,332
* Non-denominational evangelical Protestants -- 309,440
* Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon) -- 267,267
* Assemblies of God -- 125,005
Among the larger groups were Buddhists with 49,065 adherents. The estimated population of Muslims increased by 23 percent from 15,553 to 19,092.
Nationally, the rate of religious participation declined slightly, said Dale Jones, data analyst for the study.
Nationwide, 48.8 percent of U.S. residents attend or are members of a faith community, compared with 50.2 percent in 2000. That's despite the more complete collection of data.
Northern New England replaced the West as the region with the lowest rate of religious attendance and membership in the country, Jones said. Besides Maine's bottom ranking, Vermont ranked one notch above Oregon at 48th.