Kentucky pastor, Gregory James Coots, 36, is in jail this week after wildlife officers found dozens of snakes in his possession. He was one of 10 people arrested in the sweep. Coots is the head of Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus Name in Middlesboro — a snake handling sect that recently came under investigation with the death of a woman bitten by one of the venomous snakes.
Religious snake handlers base their article of faith on a reference in the Bible. The two most cite passages are:
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.
Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you.
The problem is that there is also a passage in federal law about trading in and possessing illegal reptiles. That is when the law lays hands on you.
In the case of Coots, they found 42 copperheads, 11 timber rattlesnakes, three cottonmouth water moccasins, a western diamondback rattlesnake, two cobras and a puff adder.