Middlesboro pastor wants snakes back that were confiscated

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MIDDLESBORO, Ky. (WKYT) - He says without his snakes that he's not obeying the word of God.

A Kentucky pastor is fighting to get back his snakes after police in Tennessee confiscated them.

Police say they found five snakes in his car during a traffic stop.

And now the pastor says his religious rights have been violated.

That traffic stop was in Knoxville, Tennessee on Interstate 40 on January 31. It left a Kentucky pastor emptied handed of his three rattlesnakes and two copperheads he had just bought for 800 dollars.

In the state of Tennessee, it is illegal to have any type of poisonous snake.

"It's really frustrating to say the least," said Pastor Jamie Coots of Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus Name in Middlesboro.

Pastor Coots has been fined before for his snakes, but they've never been taken away.

"Years we've traveled and went and got them and never anything," said Pastor Coots.

But this time around, he's charged with transporting illegal reptiles and transporting them in improper containers.

"Even if you are trained and experienced in handling them, there's always the issue of who else is going to be in the home that may come in contact with them," said Officer Joe Durnin with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.

Pastor Coots says he not only believes that he needs the snakes to worship.

"We use them in our religious ceremonies. And I believe, as for me, if I don't have them there to use, then I'm not obeying the word of God," said Pastor Coots.

He's also pushing that these animals are his property.

For now, the snakes are in Rainforest Adventure Zoo in Sevierville, TN.

After failing to work out a plea agreement, a trial date was set for Pastor Coots on February 25 in Tennessee.

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