Pastor Arrested in Illegal Snake Bust

Orginally published on Monday, July 14, 2008 at 7:29 AM
by Todd Rhoades

The pastor of a Kentucky church that handles snakes in religious rites was among 10 people arrested by wildlife officers in a crackdown on the venomous snake trade.

More than 100 snakes, many of them deadly, were confiscated in the undercover sting after Thursday's arrests, said Col. Bob Milligan, director of law enforcement for Kentucky Fish and Wildlife.

Most were taken from the Middlesboro home of Gregory James Coots, including 42 copperheads, 11 timber rattlesnakes, three cottonmouth water moccasins, a western diamondback rattlesnake, two cobras and a puff adder.

Which brings up this ethical question...

Is it morally wrong to break the law to smuggle illegal snakes to use in your church service?

I mean, really… wouldn’t a regular old rattlesnake do?  Do you really need a giant puff adder?

Help me out a little here…

More here...

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  There are 14 Comments:

  • Posted by

    I’m not so much concerned with the legal ethics as I am the Biblical error. Our civic representatives create laws on an almost daily basis then they fail to see their enforcement. These pastors are going to stand before a REAL judge one day. Thats what is scary.

    It brings to mind though, passing out snakes in a mountain church is OBVIOUS error and we can to some extent laugh at the evocations of the Beverly Hillbillies or Lil’ Abner in such absurdities.

    What about all of the “white lies” that are filling the churches of our suburbs? The calls for Salvation without the preaching of the LAW. In actuality a few hundred people are in error over passing out snakes. Yesterday MILLIONS in America suburban churches in all of our cities and towns heard “another pospel” .

    There are plenty of snakes to be found in our churches.

  • Posted by


    “Is it morally wrong to break the law to smuggle illegal snakes to use in your church service?”

    Great question!  Time to break out some hermeneutics!  =)

    First, are there any statements in the Bible that say that a church must engage in the handling of venomous snakes?  Mark 16 says that we will be able to handle them and avoid being poisoned, but no command to handle them as a part of worship.  Even when one bit Paul, he just shook it off into a fire.  If it were truly a needed part of worship, he would have probably tried to save it.  So, overall, there are no commands that we must handle snakes in worship.

    Second, when the Bible doesn’t provide any provisions regarding a particular concept for which there is a governmental / civil law, we have to acquiesce to the law of the land.  Therefore, if the government says that the trading and sale of certain types of sales are illegal, then it’s illegal and sinful to resist.

    I know that someone may say that Mark 16:18 says, “They shall take up serpents,” and use that to say that without demonstration of it that we are not truly believers, but this does not say the when or how of this is to be done.  And I don’t see that trumping or giving credence to rebelling against civil law.


  • Posted by Todd Rhoades

    Don’t take this too seriously guys.  I’m not trying to make a case for snake handling (legal or illegal) here.



  • Posted by Peter Hamm

    I think the obvious next step to think about is when (as in Canada), certain preaching that many churches engage in is considered “hate speech”.

    What if it’s illegal to say that behaviors and beliefs that are opposed to ours are wrong? What do we do then?

    Can we still be faithful to the Gospel and yet be faithful to the authorities in those situations?

  • Posted by Dane


    You almost killed me.  I laughed so loud the people in the next office wondered what was up!

    Is it ethical to smuggle illegal snakes??!!!!

    And all these serious Bible scholars trying to straighten you out this morning!

    Give Todd a break, he’s practicing for the Whitehouse.  He’s got to separate ethics from overt Bible teaching.....Universal principles here.  Biblical hermeneutics not necessary. 

    Can’t we just laugh about it?

  • Posted by

    It’s morally wrong to break civil law particularly when that law does not violate God’s law.  The Bible does not command us to pick up and handle snakes, it simply says that we would be able to pick up snakes and not be harmed which is more of an analogy of the power that we would have as followers of Christ.  It’s fallen man who has decided to take this as a way to prove a point.

  • Posted by bryonm

    here’s what’s morally wrong:
    wearing make-up
    smoking tobacco
    chewing tobacco
    inter-racial marriage
    the emerging church…

    but smuggling snakes into church service to the Glory of God is religious freedom.  Only an anti-christ lead, over-taxing federal government would stop it.


  • Posted by

    We did have a gentleman in SC (in my home county - Laurens County) that was bitten by his “pet” cobra.  Luckily he survived, but I think once was enough for him.  I think he would vote not to smuggle.  So I vote not to smuggle.  Common sense anyone?

  • Posted by HEATHER

    Jesus used all kinds of props, didn’t He? But none that broke the law?  I default to the Gospels for this one!

  • Posted by Jimmy Eldridge

    I prefer not to tempt the snake into biting me. I ma sure that God can kep me from being hurt but...I don’t want to push it. smile

  • Posted by Bart

    I just talked to God this morning and asked Him if I should handle poisonous snakes.  His relpy, “What are you an idiot?” He also said if I had enough faith He could keep the snake from biting me, but that He knows me and it would be best if I don’t try.

  • Posted by Jeff Thompson

    Todd, you ignorant buffoon. Your “Aren’t all snakes the same?” attitude is shockingly insensitive.

    The difference between a rattler and a copperhead is just as extreme as the difference between the King James version of the Bible (truth) and the New King James version of the Bible (from the pit of hell).

    Doesn’t God deserve the very best snakes we can smuggle into our church?

  • Posted by

    Just as long as those same illegal snakes aren’t dancing, smoking, or playing cards!

  • Posted by

    man alive you mention someone doing what they believe to be truth in the king james version bible as idiots.
    you never read the revised standard or some of the other versions used all across America that say you will with your hands pick up snakes. now if you are afraid, stay home. but who are we to judge another mans servant. each serves God as he feels he needs to.
    what happened to a church believing as it wishes.. we are supposed to have religeous freedom in this country.if the bible said a believer would hunt 4 leaved clovers, everyone would be on their knees searching for that 4 leafed clover. my question is who were the other 9. and to stand up against the King James Bible is very dangerous. and yes i have believed in that biblical teaching for over 37 years. i can not answer for everyone, but they should stop picking on Gregory James Coots and lay some blame to the other 9. But i guess the story is better for you all if there is one man you can single out. just as the jews done christ. but to single out brother coots and not knowing about him as a person is wrong.
    and i do agree we dont need to ship in snakes as you call them that are not localy found. if you were to happen into one of the churches you would not be allowed to be where the snake are at all. maybe after a service with someone who believes you might be allowed to look through the screened portion of the boxes. not once has there ever been an incident where someone who didnt believe been put in jepordy.
    i laugh at the make shift law in tN. when it was repealed in 1973, they said we were stationary poor illiterate people and me in college and working at a fairly good rated job.
    no one of the belief will drag anyone to a service that doesnt want to go. no cameras in most of the churches.. just because they wont tell the truth about the people they film. now i was sent to vietnam before i found out about serpent handlers.. and when i came home i figured at the least i would be free to worship the living God who delivered me from my enemies. am i supposed to run and hide ? i think not. dont place a guilt or ridicule any of the people whom handle snakes untill you at the least visit and learn about one of them first hand. and as always ,,,, never trust the govt on such things.

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