A snake-handling pastor in Kentucky died yesterday after he was bitten during a church service and refused medical attention—not an unusual attitude for a snake-handling pastor, apparently. Jamie Coots, who starred in the National Geographic show Snake Salvation, went home after being bitten by a poisonous snake and told emergency workers that he wouldn't go to a hospital, WBIR reports. He died about an hour later. Maybe his previous rattlesnake bites gave him extra confidence? One in the early 1990s left his shoulder purple-red and covered with blisters, and another in 1998 caused his middle-finger tip to die and fall off, reports the Lexington Herald-Leader.
"It's a victory to God's people that the Lord seen fit to bring me through it," he said after the 1998 bite. His death highlights an old Kentucky controversy over snake-handling, which the state outlawed in the 1940s but failed to enforce because it infringed on people's religious beliefs. (The state did confiscate three of Coots' rattlesnakes last year, however.) Snake handlers draw their inspiration from a literal interpretation of King James Bible, which says in part that "they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them." Coots once defended his church, saying it isn't as weird as it sounds: "We're just normal people living day to day like everybody else, most of us living hand to mouth, but what we believe, we believe, and we practice it."