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Death of snake-handling Kentucky pastor doesn't shake faith of fellow believers

  • FILE - In this May 6, 2012 file photo, Jamie Coots, pastor of the Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus Name Church of Middlesboro, Ky, stands on a bench before the church, singing and holding a rattlesnake during service at Tabernacle Church of God in LaFollette, Tenn. on May 6, 2012. The snake-handling preacher has gone back home from a Tennessee courtroom without his venomous serpents after pleading guilty to illegally having poisonous snakes that were confiscated after a traffic stop in Knox County, Tenn., on Jan. 31. (AP Photo/The Tennessean, Shelley Mays) NO SALESThe Associated Press

  • FILE - In this Dec. 11, 2013 file photo, Pastor Jamie Coots prays during a service at the Full Gospel Tabernacle In Jesus Name church in Middlesboro, Ky. Coots died Sunday, Feb. 16, 2014, after being bitten by a rattlesnake. (AP Photo/Chattanooga Times Free Press, Dan Henry)The Associated Press

  • FILE - In this Feb. 25, 1995 file photo, Junior McCormick tests his faith by handling a rattlesnake as Homer Browing looks on during services at the Church of the Lord Jesus in Kingston, Ga. Church members believe that if they have faith in God, they will be protected from harm as they handle the serpents. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)The Associated Press

  • FILE - In this Friday Nov. 15, 2013 file photo, Tabernacle Church of God Pastor Andrew Hamblin leads a prayer circle around Ronnie Vaught of Corbin, Ky. in Jacksboro, Tenn. Hamblin, who appears on the National Geographic reality television show "Snake Salvation," is charged with possession of Class 1 wildlife after more than 50 venomous snakes were confiscated from his church. (AP Photo/Knoxville News Sentinel, J. Miles Cary)The Associated Press

  • Tabernacle Church of God Pastor Andrew Hamblin declares his faith in God and his right to handle snakes before his arraignment on Friday Nov. 15, 2013, in Jacksboro, Tenn. Hamblin, who appears on the National Geographic reality television show “Snake Salvation,” is charged with possession of Class 1 wildlife after more than 50 venomous snakes were confiscated from his church. (AP Photo/J. Miles Cary, Knoxville News Sentinel)The Associated Press

Just days after pastor Jamie Coots died from a rattlesnake bite at church, mourners leaving the funeral went to the church to handle snakes.

Coots, who appeared on the National Geographic Channel's "Snake Salvation," pastored the Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus Name church founded by his grandfather in Middlesboro, Ky. He died Feb. 15.

Coots and fellow believers cite a passage in the Bible as evidence that they are commanded by God to handle snakes.

The practice of snake handling in the United States was first documented in the mountains of East Tennessee during the early days of Pentecostalism at the turn of the 20th Century.

Today the practice is most common in Southern Appalachian states, and snake handlers often use native rattlesnakes and copperheads.