Updated 9 months ago by Josh Breslow
A southeastern Kentucky pastor known for handling snakes isn't backing down after his reptiles were seized by police in Tennessee.
Gregory "Jamie" Coots, the pastor at Full Gospel Tabernacle In Jesus Name, is known around Bell County for using snakes in his services.
"The Bible says they should take up serpents," Pastor Coots told LEX 18. "All of our snakes have venom. I've been bit seven times. Lost a finger to a snake bite."
Video on the pastor's YouTube channel shows him in action. The snakes he uses come from other states and Coots said that landed him in hot water.
Pastor Coots was in court Monday in Knoxville, Tennessee answering to charges he transported five snakes, identified as three rattlesnakes and two copperheads through that state, illegally. He said he purchased them in Alabama and was driving through Tennessee, when police said they pulled him over for tinted windows and discovered the reptiles.
"When you bought snakes in a state where it's legal to buy them and bring them to a state where it's legal to have them, I don't see how they can stop you and take them away," Coots said.
The Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency confiscated the reptiles, along with the boxes they were in.
"One box means more to me than most worldly possessions. It belonged to my best friend who died in '98," said Coots.
The pastor told LEX 18 that with three services a week, he's not sure how he'll get by, but he vows not to let this setback keep him from doing what he feels he must.
"If I can find a way to bypass Tennessee, I won't go through it no more because I'm not gonna stop buying snakes," Coots said.
Coots was charged in 2008 after investigators said they found he had dozens of snakes, many that were not legal in Kentucky.
Pastor Coots is expected back in court later this month for a preliminary hearing.
Coots said there has only been one snake-related death in his church. That happened in 1995, when a woman was handling a serpent and later died as a result of a bite.