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The Secular Coalition for America, a group describing itself as “a lobbying organization representing nontheistic Americans and advocating for a strong separation of religion and government,” has announced plans to launch a chapter in California and eight other states.

The group already has chapters in eight states and affiliates operating in Arizona and Alabama, with plans to launch in every state, plus Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico, by the end of the year.

“Some of the most egregious violations of church state separation are being promoted and passed at the state level, and we absolutely must act to stop it,” says Edwina Rogers, the group’s national executive director.

Two practices in California that the Coalition is taking aim at are the daily prayers that open business in the State Assembly and a law that says parents who deny medical treatment to their children and attempt to heal them of maladies through prayer alone have provided “other medical care” and are not susceptible to neglect or abuse charges.

For support, the group points to a study from a Pew Research Center affiliate that finds that 38 percent of Americans feel politicians place too much emphasis on religious faith and prayer as related to their posts (30 percent say there is too little religious expression). The same Pew study finds that 54 percent of Americans believe churches should refrain from engaging in political activity, a view supported by Democrats (60 percent) and independents (58 percent) but rebuked by Republicans (44 percent).

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