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After the Death of Snake-Handling Reality Star, Son Vows to Continue in Father’s Faith

Pentecostal preacher and snake handler Jamie Coots has died from a snakebite. The Kentucky native, who had recently been featured on the National Geographic reality show ‘Snake Salvation’ refused life-saving treatment after the bite and decided instead to return home to accept his fate.

Coots was holding several venomous snakes at his Middleboro church on Saturday as part of a Appalachian religious tradition, illegal in most states including Kentucky, that calls for true believers to handle poisonous snakes as a testament of faith.

Based on the passage in the Bible that says, “Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you,” Coots and other snake-handlers believe that God will protect them from harm, if it is God’s will.

As an extension of his belief, the snake-handling preacher has long maintained he would not seek help for a snakebite, and instead trusted his fate to God alone.

“I always said I wouldn’t never go to a hospital for a bite. I said, ‘Lord, if I ever go to a hospital, I’ll quit handling [snakes],’ ” Coots said in 2000. “If I go to the hospital, I still have to fight that battle of the devil telling me, ‘You said you would never go, [and] here you went.’ ”

The preacher held steadfast to his snake-handling tradition, passed down through this family, through eight previous bites. One bite was so bad Coots’ finger shriveled and eventually fell off on its own after he refused medical care. Yet, nothing could stop Coots from what he viewed as a call to handle the venomous snakes.

On the night of the fatal bite, his son Cody said that many in the church had been handling the snakes. “Everybody was getting in, shouting, taking up serpents, speaking in tongues, handling fire. I mean, you could just feel the power of God,” Cody said.

When he realized his father had been bit, Cody told the media he and his family was not overly alarmed.

“We’re going to go home, he’s going to lay on the couch, he’s going to hurt, he’s going to pray for a while and he’s going to get better. That’s what happened every other time, except this time was just so quick and it was crazy, it was really crazy,” Coots’ son told the Knoxville news, saying his dad passed out and never regained consciousness.

Despite his tragic end, Cody was proud of his dad for living out his faith until the moment of his death. “You get bit, you either die at home or God brings you through,” he quoted his pastor father as saying to him. “I love my dad, but God has a plan. You can’t change it,” he stressed.

Cody also said that he will step in to take his father’s place as pastor at the church services and snake-handling will resume on Wednesday night as scheduled.

Photo Credit: Screenshot/WVLT

About the author

Tamar is a New York based freelance writer and photographer whose work has appeared in over 15 publications. You can catch her work regularly on Issue Hawk, Latest, Jspace, and MediaGlobal.