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Herps In The News Local or national articles where reptiles or amphibians have made it into the news media. Please cite sources.

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Old 02-17-2014, 07:24 PM   #1
Jamie Coots, 'Snake Salvation' reality star, dies from snake bite

Jamie Coots, who starred on "Snake Salvation" — a National Geographic reality show about Pentecostal preachers who handle snakes as part of their services — died Saturday after being bitten by one of the snakes, Kentucky's WBIR reports.

Coots was handling a rattlesnake at his Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus Name Church in Middlesboro when he was bitten on the hand Saturday night, another preacher, Cody Winn, told WBIR.

Police said an ambulance arrived at the church Saturday evening but emergency workers were told Coots had gone home. Authorities said Coots initially refused medical treatment and when emergency workers return later that night, the pastor was dead from a venomous snake bite.

The pastor's son, Cody Coots, told the television station his dad had been bit eight times before, but never had had such a severe reaction.

A spokesman for National Geographic told Fox News that the network had no plans to film another season, but planned to air a special about Coots.

"In following Pastor Coots ... we were constantly struck by his devout religious convictions despite the health and legal peril he often faced. Those risks were always worth it to him and his congregants as a means to demonstrate their unwavering faith," the network said in a statement.

"We were honored to be allowed such unique access to Pastor Jamie and his congregation during the course of our show, and give context to his method of worship."

The Associated Press contributed to this report
Original article here.
Old 02-18-2014, 12:49 AM   #2
Didn't see that coming. Sad to hear he died tho.
Old 02-18-2014, 07:10 AM   #3
Follow Up: Why a snake handler refused treatment


Why a snake handler refused treatment
By Daniel Burke, Belief Blog Co-editor

(CNN) – In the close-knit town of Middlesboro, Kentucky, almost everyone knew what was happening inside the Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus Name Church – including Police Chief Jeff Sharpe.

Despite a Kentucky law that prohibits snake-handling at religious events, Sharpe said he "made a decision not to involve this police department in somebody's church service."

"I'm not going to tell you that I didn't know what was going on. This is a small town," Sharpe said. "But we're not going to bust into anybody's church on Sunday morning."

The trouble at Full Gospel Tabernacle began on Saturday night, when Pastor Jamie Coots, whose serpent-handling religious rituals made him a reality TV star, died after a rattlesnake sunk its fangs into his right hand.

Coots was a third-generation serpent handler and aspired to one day pass the practice, and his church, on to his adult son, Little Cody.

MORE ON CNN: Reality show snake-handling preacher dies - of snakebite

Despite Coots' death, Sharpe said he will not enforce Kentucky's ban against using serpents in religious services.

"The Middlesboro police have their priorities and the State Police have theirs. If they want to come in and investigate that or any other church, they are quite welcome."

A National Geographic show featured Coots and cast handling all kinds of poisonous snakes – copperheads, rattlers, cottonmouths. The channel's website shows a picture of Coots, goateed, with a fedora covering his bald head.

"Even after losing half of his finger to a snake bite and seeing others die from bites during services," Coots "still believes he must take up serpents and follow the Holiness faith," the website says.

Coots belonged to a small circle of Pentecostal Holiness pastors who take this passage from the Bible's Gospel of Mark literally: “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.”

Since those words are said to be spoken by Jesus, pastors like Coots take them as divine commandments. But they also say there are other spiritual reasons to handle serpents. Practitioners often describe it as a mental and emotional rush, as if they were touching the hand of God.

"They almost always use drug metaphors, like 'higher than any high you can experience," said Paul Williamson, a professor of psychology at Henderson State University in Arkansas who studies serpent handlers.

At the same time, they are extremely careful with the serpents, Williamson said, only allowing those who live sin-free lives and have been "annointed" by the Holy Spirit to handle the snakes. "There's death in that box," pastors often warn the congregation before services start.

"Because serpent handling is not a practice that occurs in the mainstream, people tend to look at it as anomalous and strange, " said Williamson. "But to them, it's really no different from a Catholic who takes Communion. It's a powerful and immediate experience of God that gives meaning and purpose to their lives."

Williamson estimates there are at most 2,000 people who belong to the few hundred churches, centered in Appalachia, that practice serpent handling. Most of the churches, like Coots', are fairly small, with less than 50 worshippers.

Faith in the divine played a role on Coots' death Saturday night, Sharpe said.

"He was very open about his beliefs, that if he was bitten, he did not want medical treatment." Coots had been bitten by a snake a half-dozen times before and recovered.

Williamson said Coots and other snake-handlers generally seek medical treatment for other ailments. "But when it comes to serpent-handling, it requires a belief in God and obedience to the commands of Jesus. If something does happen, they trust God with the consequences."

Sharpe said his department and an ambulance crew responded to a call at the church Saturday night but Coots and his family had already gone home. When they arrived at the Coots home, the pastor was unconscious and "in pretty bad shape."

Medical professionals stayed at Coots' house for half an hour, telling the family about the consequences of not seeking treatment, the police chief said, as family, friends and church members came and went. But the Coots family was adamant that God alone would heal the pastor, if it was divine will.

"Certainly, they were not aware of the danger," Sharpe said. "We have to offer this treatment, but we can't force them to take it."

Coots was far from the first serpent-handler to die from a snakebite. Mack Wolford, one of the tradition's most famous practitioners, was killed by a bite in 2012. His father died in 1983 from the same cause.

The police chief said he knew Coots fairly well and spoke with the pastor several times about being bitten by serpents.

It is not illegal to keep poisonous snakes in Kentucky, but it requires permits from the state Fish and Wildlife Department. Coots' permits were up-to-date, Sharpe said. "He was pretty meticulous."

"They were well aware of what they were doing, that they were handling dangerous snakes and could get bit. Please understand that these are not ignorant people but people with beliefs just a little outside the mainstream."

In February 2013, Coots was given one year of probation for crossing into Tennessee with venomous snakes. The state banned snake-handling in 1947 after five people died within a two-year span, the National Geographic Channel says on the show site.

He was previously arrested in 2008 for keeping 74 snakes in his home, according to the channel.

(CNN's Ashley Fantz contributed to this report.)
Original article here.
Old 02-18-2014, 12:01 PM   #4
Despite Coots' death, Sharpe said he will not enforce Kentucky's ban against using serpents in religious services.
Translation: if people want to compete for Darwin Awards, it's not our job to stop them.
Old 02-18-2014, 05:28 PM   #5
"The pastor's son, Cody Coots, told the television station his dad had been bit eight times before, but never had had such a severe reaction."

he developed an allergy would be my guess
Old 02-19-2014, 02:52 PM   #6
Good riddance
Old 02-21-2014, 01:31 PM   #7
I guess he just didn't have enough faith.
Old 02-23-2014, 08:40 AM   #8
Snake-handling pastor Jamie Coots hailed as 'martyr' after fatal bite

Snake-handling pastor Jamie Coots hailed as 'martyr' after fatal bite

Preachers who practice handle poisonous snakes during church services vow to continue tradition despite deaths and illegality

Jamie Coots, a pastor in Middlesboro, Kentucky. snake preacher Jamie Coots, a pastor in Middlesboro, Kentucky. Photograph: AP Photo/Courtesy National Geographic Channel

A pentecostal preacher in Kentucky who died after being bitten by a rattlesnake is being hailed as a martyr by his colleagues, who will continue breaking the law by handling poisonous reptiles during their church services, according to friends.

Jamie Coots “lived and died consistent with his faith” and his death will only inspire more people to obey an instruction from God in the Gospel of Mark that “they shall take up serpents,” said Professor Ralph Hood, of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

“This won’t stop them: just the opposite,” said Hood, a friend of Coots and the most noted expert on the Appalachian serpent-handling tradition. “They will continue, and praise Jamie Coots as a martyr who died for his faith.”

Coots died on Saturday night after being bitten on the right hand during a service at his Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus Name church. The 42-year-old, who featured prominently in the National Geographic series Snake Salvation, refused medical attention on religious grounds.

His funeral is due to be held in his hometown of Middlesboro on Tuesday evening.

Coots’s son, Cody, said his family had expected him to survive because he had been bitten eight times before. “Everybody was getting in, shouting, taking up serpents, speaking in tongues, handling fire,” he told Kentucky’s WKYT-TV. “You could just feel the power of God.”

Coots had continued flouting a 74-year-old Kentucky law banning the use of poisonous snakes in religious services, even after a woman died from a bite during a ceremony he conducted in 1995. Coots was charged, but avoided prosecution after a judge declined to proceed with the case. He was also fined $6,400 in 2008 after being convicted of illegally trading in poisonous snakes.

Andrew Hamblin, a pastor in neighbouring Tennessee who was mentored by Coots and co-starred with him in the National Geographic series, is understood to have been devastated by the death. The Guardian has been told that he intends to continue his snake-handling services at Tabernacle Church of God.
Junior McCormick handling a rattlesnake as Homer Browing looks on during services at the Church of the Lord Jesus in Kingston, Georgia, in 1995. A man handling a rattlesnake during services at the Church of the Lord Jesus in Kingston, Georgia, in 1995. Photograph: John Bazemore/AP

Hamblin, 23, was last year charged with illegally possessing poisonous reptiles and had 53 rattlesnakes, copperheads and other breeds seized from his church. However, charges were dropped last month when a grand jury voted not to indict him. Hamblin claims the snakes’ appearances are shows of divine power.

In an interview before Coots’s death, Hamblin told the Guardian he disagreed with colleagues who declined medical help when bitten. “God has not moved on you, that authority is not there to protect you,” he said. “So go see a doctor. Do not sit there and suffer.”

Hamblin, a father of five young children, suffered his first bite while helping Coots prepare for a service in July 2010. “I was knocking on death’s door,” he said. “Me and death was just about ready to smoke a cigarette together, but God had mercy on me through a doctor’s knowledge.”

Since suffering the bite, he has been unable to make a fist with his right hand. He said he suffered another bite to his neck the next month but escaped without injury. However he insisted he had no fear when compelled by a command from God to pick up a snake during his services.

“If it’s my point in time to die, I could leave tonight in a car wreck and leave my children fatherless,” he said. “I could die of a heart attack. But if it’s my time to die there will not be a doctor in this world standing over me who’ll be able to keep me here”.

The tradition extends to West Virginia and dates back more than 100 years. Most pastors remain secretive about their work and do not permit outsiders to their services. Several declined to return requests for comment on Coots’s death. “If it’s about religion, I don’t want to talk about it,” said Pastor Jimmy Morrow of Newport, Tennessee.

They claim that only about 10 pastors have died from bites over the past century. However Mack Wolford of West Virginia, who led one of the best-attended snake-handling churches out of an estimated 125 in the region, was killed by a timber rattlesnake in May 2012.

“To the outsider it seems strange, but they have long accepted that they have a ritual that could kill,” said Hood. “For them it’s not a question of whether you are going to die, it’s a question of how you die.

“They would argue that the most important thing is to die being obedient to god. So they can mourn the loss of a loved one from a serpent bite, but simultaneously be confident that they are in heaven. It’s kind of a win-win situation, as far as they see it.”
Original article can be found here.
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