Wednesday, November 13, 2013
Snake Handling Pastor Charged Criminally; Authorities Tipped Off By Reality TV Show
RNS reported yesterday that the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency last week raided the Tabernacle Church of God in LaFollete, Tennessee and seized 53 venomous snakes handled by the congregation during worship services. Authorities arrested the church's pastor, Rev. Andrew Hamblin, who is the co-star of the National Geographic Chanel's reality series Snake Salvation. Wildlife authorities were tipped off to the fact that there were snakes at the church because of the television show. Hamblin was charged with violations of Tennessee Code § 39-17-101 which prohibits using a poisonous snake in a way that endangers others. Hamblin says that the ban violates his and his congregation's religious liberty. They point to language in Mark 16: 18 to explain their snake handling rituals.