January 8, 2014

‘Snake Salvation’ pastor won’t be charged with violating Tenn. law

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Andrew Hamblin, 21, pastor of Tabernacle Church of God in La Follette, Tenn., holds up two rattlesnakes during church service. For more than a 100 years, small Pentecostal churches in East Tennessee and other parts of Appalachia have handled poisonous snakes and drunk strychnine during their services. The snake handlers say that the Bible tells them to do so, but it’s illegal and has mostly died out.

Andrew Hamblin, 21, pastor of Tabernacle Church of God in La Follette, Tenn., holds up two rattlesnakes during church service. For more than a 100 years, small Pentecostal churches in East Tennessee and other parts of Appalachia have handled poisonous snakes and drunk strychnine during their services. The snake handlers say that the Bible tells them to do so, but it’s illegal and has mostly died out.

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(RNS) A grand jury decided not to indict the Rev. Andrew Hamblin, star of the National Geographic television series “Snake Salvation," on charges of violating a state ban on possessing venomous snakes.

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  • Earold Gunter

    I say let them have the snakes, as long as they aren’t given to children. As far as stopping their involvement if helping to purify the collective gene pool, in the words of Pope Francis, “Who am I?” to say they shouldn’t

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  • I have mixed feelings on the decision in some ways because I do believe in religious freedom. As long as the snakes are not handled near or given to children, I think I’m okay with the decision. Definitely those snakes should not come anywhere near children for several reasons including the risk of death from a bike is MUCH higher for children because of their small size and blood volume. It would be interesting to know how many people have been injured or killed in one of those services though … don’t know very much about this form of Christianity at all. I do remember the verse in the Bible about the snakes though, where God promises to protect the snake handlers. I am Christian but do not belong to a church like his. Quaker here.

  • Bighoss

    This cultist got off lucky. The grand jury likely was dominated by right wing libertarian wackadoodles. State law on this matter is unambiguous; he should have been indicted. I smell something akin to “jury nullification.”

  • Bighoss

    A pox on National Geographic for its crass and shameless commercial huckstering in producing “Snake Salvation.” They have lowered themselves to the level of such inanities as professional rasslin’ and sasquatch huntin’.

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  • Larry

    Christian privilege rears its ugly head yet again. If I had to speculate, if the snake handler were of any faith but Christianity, it would have gone the other way. They chose not to prosecute someone out of inconvenience and publicity. Please note, the pastor did not get his snakes back. The state just chose not to charge him for the multiple counts of animal cruelty.

    There is a clear secular and rational purpose behind the venomous snake ban which was being violated. The Pastor clearly was not caring for his snakes in a responsible manner considering most were ill. He is the religious equivalent of the “crazy cat lady”. If his practice was puppy juggling or his religion was Santeria, he would be locked up by now.

  • Richard

    Love to see the look on their faces when you try to explain to them that the original ending of Mark Chapter 16 only went to verse 8. verses 9-20 were added at a later date. Do they know what Eucharist, Advent, Lent, office of morning and evening prayer are? I could go and on. Sad.

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  • pj

    If the pentecostal freaks want to test their faith, I say jump off a cliff, lock yourself in your car with a hose running from the exhaust, drink some drano. See how that works out for you. OR: Get off welfare, get a job, volunteer at a homeless shelter, and join a Christian church that doesn’t put animals or children in danger. Oh, and while we’re on that subject, your children should be taken away and you should be sterilized so we can nip this in the bud right now. But who am I to judge?…..