Man dies of snake bite during church service in Bell County

John David Brock, 60, was bitten while handling a snake during a church service at Mossy Simpson Pentecostal Church in Jenson. | Photo: Phil Pendleton
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BELL COUNTY, Ky. (WKYT) - A man died after he was bitten by a snake Sunday during a church service, according to the Bell County Sheriff's Office.

John David Brock, 60, died after a snake bit him in the left arm and he refused medical treatment, according to the Bell County Sheriff's Office. Brock was handling a snake during a church service at Mossy Simpson Pentecostal Church in Jenson.

A church member says Brock was bitten by a rattlesnake. Brock refused medical treatment and went to his brother's house where he died four hours later. Bell County Coroner Jay Steele was called to the residence and pronounced Brock dead.

Steele says Brock's death is under investigation. He said Brock had other health problems.

The coroner said an autopsy will not be conducted, and Brock's official cause of death will be determined using medical records.

Brock, who believed in the Holiness faith, had been a coal miner for 36 years, according to his obituary.

Snake handling at religious services is said to date back to the early 1900s, when a Tennessee preacher connected it to Mark 16:18 (NIV), which says:

"They will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.”

Stoney Fork is a small community in Bell County where people say faith is very important and for some that means handling snakes during a church service.

"Certainly people take it literally ... the verse where it says people take up deadly serpents or poisons," Jack Green of Stoney Fork said.

Green says he doesn't believe in handling snakes but stopped short of criticizing those who do.

"It is people doing what they believe. It isn't anything to sneer at," he said.

Most snake-handlers are found in Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia. The practice is actually illegal in Kentucky, but rarely enforced. A state law passed in 1942 that bans the use of any kind of reptile during religious services, punishable by fines.
It is estimated that as many as 300 churches nationwide still use snakes in service.

According to news reports, Brock is the second person to die from a snake bite during a Bell County church service in more than a year.

Jamie Coots, a snake-handling Kentucky pastor who appeared on the National Geographic television reality show "Snake Salvation," died in February 2014 after being bitten by a snake. Coots refused medical treatment and later died.

In an interview in 2012, Coots told WKYT that he knew snake-handling might eventually kill him but he said it was how he preferred to go. Coots said he believed the venomous snakes couldn't hurt him as long as he had the power of God.

Arrangements for Brock are being handled by Arnett & Steele Funeral Home.
Services will be at 11 a.m. Friday at the Stoney Fork Holiness Church. Burial will be at the Brock Cemetery on York Branch.

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