- Associated Press - Thursday, February 27, 2014
Kentucky snake handler death doesn’t shake belief

Three 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. The third-generation snake handler was bitten during a service on Feb. 15 and died later at his home after refusing medical help. Now his adult son, Cody Coots, is taking over the family church where snakes are frequently part of services.

“People think they will stop handling snakes because someone got bit, but it’s just the opposite,” said Ralph Hood, a professor of psychology at the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga, who has been studying snake handlers for decades. “It reaffirms their faith.”

The practice of snake handling in the United States was first documented in the mountains of East Tennessee in the early 20th Century, according to Paul Williamson, a professor of psychology at Henderson State University who, along with Hood, co-wrote a book about snake handlers called, “Them That Believe.” In the 1940s and 1950s, many states made snake-handling illegal (it’s currently illegal in Kentucky), but the practiced has continued, and often law enforcement simply looks the other way.

The basis for the practice is a passage in the Gospel of Mark. In the King James Version of the Bible, Mark 16:17-18 reads: “And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.”

Snake handling gained momentum when George Hensley, a Pentecostal minister working in various Southern states in the early 1900s, recounted an experience where, while on a mountain, a serpent slithered beside him. Hensley purported to be able to handle the snake with impunity, and when he came down the mountain he proclaimed the truth of following all five of the signs in Mark. Hensley himself later died from a snake bite.

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Haslam says citizenship required for tuition plan

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Republican Gov. Bill Haslam says legislative efforts to make children of people living in the country illegally eligible for in-state tuition “have some merit,” but that he has no plans to change his own free tuition proposal to include those same students.

Haslam wants to create the country’s first free community college program for all high school graduates by using state lottery reserves to cover the difference between tuition costs and all available aid.

The governor’s proposal would require students to exhaust all possible support by filling out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, which requires a Social Security number.

Haslam told reporters Wednesday that removing the requirement to fill out that federal form would cause the cost of the tuition plan to become too high for the state.

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Paula Deen to open eatery in Pigeon Forge, Tenn.

SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) - Paula Deen’s comeback trail is leading her to the Smoky Mountains of east Tennessee.

The Savannah, Ga.-based celebrity cook announced Wednesday she’s opening a new restaurant, Paula Deen’s Kitchen, in Pigeon Forge, Tenn. A hub for tourists visiting the Dollywood theme park and the nearby Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Pigeon Forge draws about 10 million vacationers a year.

Paula Deen Ventures, a new company launched to manage Deen’s comeback after she acknowledged past use of racial slurs in a lawsuit last year, said it’s pouring $20 million into the 20,000-square-foot restaurant. Earlier this month, Deen’s company announced it’s getting at least $75 million from a private investment firm.

Deen lost four buffet restaurants in casinos operated by Caesars Entertainment last year during the fallout from the controversy.

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5th suspect in Memphis Rolex heist arrested

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) - Authorities have arrested a fifth man charged with robbing a Memphis mall jewelry store of $537,000 in Rolex watches.

The U.S. Marshals Service says Rodrick Walker was arrested Tuesday while he was hiding in an apartment in southwest Houston. Walker was being held in the Harris County Jail, awaiting extradition.

Police say five men dressed in black with hooded shirts entered Reed Jewelers at Wolfchase Galleria Mall the night of Jan. 18, while the mall was still open. Police say they used sledgehammers to break the glass display cases and take the watches.

The robbers used two exits near the store to escape.

No injuries were reported. Despite early reports, police determined there were no shots fired.

Four other men have been arrested in the theft.

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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