Laying Hands On Religious Snake Handlers: Police Arrest Pastor of Fundamentalist Church

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.

Mark 16:17-18

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.

Luke 10:19

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.

For the full story, click here and here and here.

6 thoughts on “Laying Hands On Religious Snake Handlers: Police Arrest Pastor of Fundamentalist Church”

  1. Here is the story from the site mentioned in a prior post. I’m uncertain what to make of it.

    Exchange Students Forced to Worship Snakes in America
    An exchange students
    The following is a true account of the first two months of an exchange student’s life in the United States of America.

    Her name has been changed and this story has been diluted. Slowly she shares with the author every detail. It may be years before we really know exactly what went on for eight Sundays of this student’s life.

    Note: This student was removed from the following situation only three weeks ago. Note, also: There were two female students in this situation; only one is able to share her story. The student exchange agency responsible: EF Foundation, headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts, 888-44-SHARE Web:


    She couldn’t help to notice several of the male church members had fingers that were missing.

    There were scars up and down their arms. Some wore long sleeves while many scars were proudly displayed.

    She was from Denmark and this was America. It was Sunday and it was time for church. Again. Fifth time this week; just as it has been for the past two months. Her grades were slipping and she was doing her best to maintain.

    Her natural mother in Denmark knew something was wrong when she would call to hear her daughter’s voice. Although she couldn’t be certain.

    Three months ago Anna received information about her host family. Her dream had arrived in the mail complete with photos. This is the moment she had been dreaming about. It took two years, but her parents saved enough to pay the $14,000 fee and she was soon to be a foreign exchange student.

    Sundays were always unexpected. There was no consistency, that much she knew her Sundays would promise.

    She remembered Denmark. Her mother’s voice and the way her father’s hands felt as he cradled the back of her head as he drew her to his chest that last day at the airport. The day they said their goodbyes. Hellos wouldn’t be for eleven months.

    The music started. Some jumped. Some didn’t. Never was she moved to do so. The music grew.


    There was always a box. A long, narrow box with a lid. Always the lid. When it was lifted, Anna’s life would be put on hold.

    Sometimes the congregation was moved. Sometimes, thank goodness, they weren’t. Her prayers were asking for the days they wouldn’t be.

    Then the day came when it was time to shout out the demons. Anna was never quite clear what the 15-year-old girl in this church had done to require such a ceremony.

    The music got louder and by 10:43 that morning her watch showed everyone was jumping. Her host mother’s eyes said she’d better start jumping, too. And she did. They shouted and she shouted. Her legs no longer hurt after twenty minutes of the constant jumping. They became used to this ritual while Anna’s mind never would.

    The lid was lifted. It was confirmed. Research the night before told her it was a Yellow Timber Snake, and it’s eyes were a direct replica of that in the photos the night before shown on the Internet. The one she ended up dreaming about. The one that woke her up many nights in a sweat.

    They jumped, she jumped, they yelled and she had to. They dropped to their knees and many, if not all, had sweat. Lots of sweat with stains that followed on their clothes.

    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. —Mark 16:17-18

  2. I read the Committee for Safety of Foreign Exchange Students article about the foreign exchange students force to worship with snakes. What is Director Stanley Colvin and Sally Lawrence of the U.S. Department of State doing about these dangerous placements? These experiences by these foreign teenagers will be what the remember about the USA and Americans. This is clearly not the foreign policy that the U.S. Department of State should be implementing and somebody should be sanctioned.

  3. whooliebacon
    1, July 13, 2008 at 2:12 pm
    Kinda hard to lampoon these folks

    Given they do it so well themselves.

  4. Sweet Zombie Jesus!

    Love this story!!! whooliebacon and Daneille, I agree with both your points. The BBC always comes to Ohio for their “really ignorant foreigner” coverage during the election. But I cannot imagine what an exchange student would make of this! Making them participate is beyond the pale.


  5. The innocent children who are subjected to this form of worship remains a concern. I am reminded of the young exchange students who were placed with a family in Kentucky. To read, “Exchange Students Forced to Worship Snakes in America” go to then the Reports of Abuse page and scroll down to this story. Within weeks, approximately 28,000 students will arrive in the US. Anyone who suspects neglect or abuse of a student is encouraged to contact their local authorities. These are not isolated incidents.

  6. Kinda hard to lampoon these folks when I understand exactly how seriously they take their religion…anyway,

    First Church of the Gooey Death.

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