On Our Minds - Snake Handling

February 23, 2014

 Reverend Jamie Coots was a snake handler and Pentecostal preacher in Middlesboro, Kentucky.   He died this past Saturday, when the rattlesnake he was handling during a church service bit him.



Clearly if a church were conducting human sacrifice, the law would crack down on it. In fact, I remember the police cracking down on animal sacrifices by Haitians in Brooklyn about 15 years ago.

If you hand a poisonous snake to someone, and mumble some nonsense about how "God will protect you," and then the person dies, don't you bear some liability for that person's death. Might you not be criminally liable? (If suffering from delusions can be raised as a defense in court; then– if the person seemed likely to continue to act on their delusions– they would need to be removed from society for the protection of others.)

First Degree Murder would be excessive. But what about Manslaughter or Reckless Endangerment?

Religious freedom is already circumscribed in our society.

If Haitians living in Brooklyn can't slaughter a chicken, and if Rastafarians living anywhere in the US can't smoke marijuana, might there be a racial component to what religious practices are protected or not protected under the First Amendment?

What exactly is the point of broadcasting this again?