Thursday, February 14, 2013

Exciting Church Used Snakes Until Tennessee Law Intervened

The Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus Name Church in Middlesboro, Kentucky  must have had the most exciting Sunday services in the country.

But that ended, at least for now, when Tennessee confiscated the poisonous snakes Pastor Jamie Coots was transporting across the state, according to an Associated Press story by Brett Barrouquere and Travis Loller.

Pastor Jamie Coots in action, in church,
with a rattlesnake.
Pastor Coots (great name!) wants the snakes back, but Tennessee authorities don't seem inclined to return them, since it's apparently illegal to transport poisonous reptiles across the state without some pretty extensive permits and safeguards.

Coots bought the snakes in Alabama, and was trying to get to Kentucky with them. He had to pass through Tennessee to get to Kentucky, and he thought it was legal to transport the snakes across Tennessee as long as he did it within 24 hours or less.

Not so, say Tennessee officials.

Coots says he uses the snakes in his church services, which is why I say his house of worship has got to be a very exciting place.

According  to the Associated Press article:

Coots says his need for the snakes is Biblical. Chapter 16 of the Gospel According to Mark states, in part: "And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover."

Coots takes that verse at face value. "We literally believe they want us to take up snakes," Coots told The Associated Press on Wednesday. "We've been serpent handling for the past 20 or 21 years."

I hope that church doesn't do everything literally, especially in the days leading up to Easter. Do even the most devoutly religious want to take part in The Last Supper and the Crucifixition?  The Resurrection would be interesting, though. And Christmas would be a hoot.

Coots is due in court in Knoxville, Tenn. on February 25. So it looks like this snakes/religion/church service kerfuffle won't be resolved anytime soon.

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