Herpetologists Question Animal Care in ‘Snake Salvation”

Pastor Jamie Coots holds a snake at Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus Name Church of Middlesboro, Ky. [Source: NPR]
Pastor Jamie Coots holds a snake at Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus Name Church of Middlesboro, Ky. [Source: NPR]

  • Serpent Experts Try To Demystify Pentecostal Snake Handling : NPR 101813
    Two weeks ago, NPR of Pentecostals in Appalachia who handle snakes in church to prove their faith in God. The story got us thinking: Why are the handlers bitten so rarely, and why are so few of those snakebites lethal? After the story aired, NPR was contacted by snake experts who strongly suggest that a snake’s reluctance to bite a religious serpent handler may have more to do with the creature’s poor health than with supernatural intervention. The herpetologists at the Kentucky Reptile Zoo have been following the activities of Pentecostal snake handlers for years. They have watched hours of video of snake-handling services and examined snakes used in church. “The animals that I’ve seen that have come from religious snake handlers were in bad condition,” says Kristen Wiley, curator of the Kentucky Reptile Zoo, a facility in the town of Slade that produces venom and promotes the conservation of snakes. “They did not have water. The cages had been left not cleaned for a pretty long period of time. And the other thing we noticed is there were eight or 10 copperheads in a container that was not very large.”

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Boxes housing snakes sit on the floor of the Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus Name in Middlesboro, Ky. [Source: NPR]

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