Snake-handling preacher in Tennessee won't be charged, but can't have snakes back

A Tennessee preacher who used poisonous snakes in his religious practices won't face criminal charges. But he also won't get back the 53 serpents wildlife officials seized from his Tabernacle Church of God.

Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency spokesman Matt Cameron tells the Knoxville News Sentinel ( it makes no difference that a grand jury declined to indict Andrew Hamblin on Wednesday. Cameron said the snakes are contraband.

This fall, Hamblin appeared on the National Geographic Channel's reality show "Snake Salvation" dancing while holding rattlesnakes and copperheads.

He pleaded not guilty at his November arraignment, telling reporters he would fight the charges on religious freedom grounds.

Prosecutor Lori Phillips-Jones said that after listening to Hamblin speak Wednesday, a grand jury declined to indict him.


Information from: Knoxville News Sentinel,