A Kentucky pastor and star of National Geographic reality show, Snake Salvation, Jamie Coots died from a snakebite on Saturday. The show featured Coots and other preachers who handle snakes to prove their faith as part of their services. He was found dead in his home after being bit earlier that day and refusing medical attention.
When Coots was bit at the church, followers had placed a call to emergency services, however, by the time medics arrived on scene Coots had already left and gone home. The medics then went to his home to perform a welfare check but Coots refused any medical attention. Around 10pm that night Coots was found dead.
Snake handlers are a small part of the Pentecostal churches in the United States. The pastors claim that as long as they are anointed by the power of God that the snakes and their venom cannot harm them. They prove this by handling poisonous snakes while dancing to religious hymns. They consider it a holy Christian sacrament and argue that it is their religious right to handle the poisonous serpents. Snake handlers believe they are called by God and that in taking any poison will not harm them.
Recently Coots and other snake pastors were in the news over their religious rights to handle the snakes. Local authorities see the snakes as a public threat and are worried that if any of the venomous creatures escaped it could cause harm to the public. Coots and other pastors argued that it is their religious right to handle the snakes and that they take the upmost caution in keeping the serpents secure. Coots, whom stared in Snake Salvation, is one of the first handlers in almost twenty years, to die from a snakebite.
Coots was recently is some trouble with authorities due to his snake collection. He had possession of Vipers which are banned from private ownership in the United States unless you have a license. Coots argued that it was a religious right for him to own the illegal snakes, but, the authorities disagreed and ordered Coots to get rid of the Vipers.
This bizarre religious practice was founded by George Went Hensley around 1910. Hensley started a church called Church of God Holiness were he introduced snake handling. The church required snake handling as evidence of one’s salvation. The practice caught on in the Southern United States and sister churches began to spring up all over the region. Pentecostal worshippers also are strong believers in laying hands on the sick (faith healing), speaking in tongues and even occasionally consume poisons. They believe that they can consume poison and not be harmed because they have been anointed by God to do so.
Most religious snake handlers are found in the Appalachian Mountains in the southern United States but can also be found in Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky and even as far north as Ohio. Most of the pastors have been bitten numerous times and even Hensley himself died from a snakebite in 1955.
There is no word if Snake Salivation was actually filming when Coots was bit by the snake. His following is in mourning over the death; however, it is unknown which of the flock will step up to take his place or what will happen to Coots’ collection of poisonous serpents.
By Adam Stier