Kentucky Snake Trading Bust

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - 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

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.

Handling snakes is practiced in a handful of fundamentalist
churches across Appalachia, based on the interpretation of Bible
verses saying true believers can take up serpents without being
harmed. The practice is illegal in most states, including Kentucky.

Coots, 36, is pastor of the Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus Name
in Middlesboro, where a Tennessee woman died after being bitten by
a rattlesnake during a service in 1995. Her husband died three
years when he was bitten by a snake in northeastern Alabama.

Coots was charged Thursday with buying, selling and possessing
illegal reptiles. He had no listed telephone number and couldn't be
reached for comment. There was no phone listing for the church.

"It is disturbing to me that individuals would keep such
dangerous wildlife in their homes and in neighborhoods where they
put their families, visitors and neighbors at such high risk,"
Milligan said.

The snakes, plus one alligator, were turned over to the
nonprofit Kentucky Reptile Zoo in Slade. Most appeared to have been
captured from the wild, with some imported from Asia and Africa.

Zoo Director Jim Harrison said some of the animals would likely
have become exotic pets had they not been seized.

"There's been a large trade in exotics for years," he said.
"Some people are just fascinated with them."

Undercover officers purchased more than 200 illegal reptiles
during the investigation, some of which were advertised for sale on
Web sites. One such Web site lists copperheads for $50 each and
cobras for $450.

"You can purchase anything off the Internet except common
sense," Harrison said. "A venomous snake isn't a pet. You don't
play with it. If you do, you're an idiot."

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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  • by Bob Location: Lexington on Aug 4, 2008 at 05:18 PM
    This has nothing to do with religion. He has everything to do with the buying and selling of wildlife. The commerlization of wildlife has lead to the extinction or extirpation of many species. The illegal trade of wildlife is second only two drugs when considering illicit trade. The state did not fund this investigation. The sportmen, women, and boaters funded this investigation through the purchase of licences and registration fees. The Kentucky Dept. of Fish and Wildlife recieves no state general fund dollars. In addition, these people are allowed to posses 5 native reptiles. They can posses some species of snakes with proper transportation permits and if they are not on the inherently dangerous wildlife list.
  • by Tiffany Location: Harlan on Jul 28, 2008 at 07:50 PM
    TO:angie Location: morehead No honey i`m not judging no one i`m just going by my bible(KJV) and what the word of god tells me (: GOD BLESS YOU SWEETY :) I`ll pray for you ;)
  • by hey u Location: ky on Jul 18, 2008 at 06:04 AM
    Hey this is to Believer... since you are a believer you should know that not everything you are taught is by God??? Satan has his little followers too that wonder the earth looking for someone to mess with...and they could have taught that to you to make you THINK that it was from God when really it wasn't...and thats the test to really show if you kno God or not.... God knows your heart... so why would you have to prove it by holding some snake...thats just obsurd! you are not only testing God but putting everyone else around you in danger... what if one of those snakes happened to get lose..and out of the church in the community and creeped up on some toodler playing outside....but if that toodler has enough faith i guess it won't get hurt...right?
  • by Believer Location: Sticks on Jul 17, 2008 at 09:08 PM
    I was raised Baptist but I have been going to a Holiness church for about 3 yrs now and the Lord taught me.. not man.. but God.. about serpent handling and i believe if the Lord teaches you something, there is NO POSSIBLE way it can be wrong.. But no one should judge anyone no matter what... that is God's job, and face it.. No one here is God... But I am a holiness child and I am very proud of that! God bless EVERYONE SINGLE ONE!
  • by Wrong Location: Kentucky on Jul 17, 2008 at 06:17 AM
    Its wrong to misconstrued the BIBLE. Jesus clearly warned about making religions on ones beliefs. Taking the BIBLE out of context is called a "CULT" Just because MOSES was given power over snakes, did not mean he wanted to. He disagreed with G-d about touching the serpent. It was just to prove a point to the Pharaoh. People if we live by the word of G-d then we have to take the BIBLE at what is says. Not what we want it to say. That's called Blasphemy.
  • by deb Location: ky on Jul 17, 2008 at 05:09 AM
    Hey Steve from lexington, snake handling is totally different than being GAY! God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve. If anyone reads and belives the word of the GOOD BOOK, then you know man cannot marry man, but they can go to the church and handle snakes if they want, I would like to see if either of your two friends get bitten!
  • by JP Location: Whitesburg on Jul 16, 2008 at 08:53 AM
    Heather, I believe I-64 runs east/west so they are either north or south of it...they could be east of I-75 though...that's possible
  • by James Location: Pike on Jul 16, 2008 at 07:59 AM
    People, people, can't you see what these FINE CHRISTIAN FOLKS are trying to do? Don't you know your WORLD HISTORY? Them snakes is what got us into trouble in the first place, you know, making women evil, creating other religions, etc.... ALL these fine country folk are doing, is trying to expose these critters to the light of the LAWD!!!!!! HALELUJAH. ( /sarcasm )
  • by deb Location: ky on Jul 16, 2008 at 05:57 AM
    I feel that snake handling in churches should be up to the individual! FREEDOM of religion? There allways seeme to be a LAW that governs everything AMERICANS do, from the way we raise our children, to home invasion if the law chooses to do so! If the people want to handle snakes, thats there business! The law should crack down on DRs and have them stop writing venemous prescriptions! I vote for FREEDOM!!!!!!!!!
  • by Margaret Location: Harlan on Jul 15, 2008 at 09:21 PM
    Concerning bringing a mule to church. The bible dont say take up a mule it says take up serpents... And concerning uneducated Kentuckians if you go to holiness churces that practice this you will be surprised to find many college graduates in alot of different fields of work, teaching, nursing, secretaries, truck drivers coal miners, bookkeepers. just to mention a few some people believe if your going to be a bible beleiving christian you take it all


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