Knoxville Zoo caring for snakes seized from LaFollette church


An East Tennessee pastor who handles snakes as part of his faith has been cited by TWRA, and his venomous snakes have been confiscated.

This is one of those snake handling churches. I believe that snake handling violates what the Bible says when Jesus responds to the devil that we should not test God.

Then the devil took him to the holy city, and made him stand on the parapet of the temple, and said to him, If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down. For it is written: 'He will command his angels concerning you and ‘with their hands they will support you, lest you dash your foot against a stone.’ Jesus answered him, Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.’
(Matthew 4:5-7 NAB)

However, the pastor claims that this is a violation of his religious freedom. What do you say about this? Is this a violation of his religious freedom or was this justified?

Here is another article:


This type of practice is illegal in every state other than West Virginia.
I tried to google the death count of people per year who engage in this type of thing, but if there is an official count, I could not find it. There are also poison drinkers in the Pentecostal ranks,[usually arsenic] but this does not seem to be nearly as popular as snake handling.

PR speakers for the Pentecostal Church, at least officially condemn the practice. Is preventing this type of thing a violation of freedom of religion? The legal precedents that I can find say no. Parents who prevent their children from receiving medical treatment on any grounds including religious ones are often prosecuted.

Where this practice is tolerated, there is always a danger that someone might be put through this “test” against his or her will. Some scripture can be vague and open to interpretation by religious scholars and followers alike. Other messages, such as the commandments, are very clear. I feel I am on safe ground when I say snake handling and arsenic chugging are clearly religious Russian roulette / suicidal practices. I think it is pretty clear where we stand on suicide.


Not sure which “Pentecostal Church” you are referring to. The Faith Tabernacle Church of God in LaFollette, TN lists “Church of God” as the apparent denomination on its facebook page. In East Tennessee, Church of God most commonly refers to the denomination based in Cleveland, but there are a number of similar denominations that have split with it like Church of God (Huntsville, AL), Church of God (Charleston, TN), The (Original) Church of God, etc. And then there are many which are simply independent congregations. The last category appears to apply to Faith Tabernacle Church of God, which is not listed in the lookup feature at the Church of God website.

Anyway, it’s a fair guess that this Church’s beliefs are similar though not identical to that of the larger Church of God denomination from Cleveland. I could not find any statement about snake handling at the Church of God site.


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