When Jamie Coots and his family made headlines last year, it was for all the wrong reasons and under quite a dubious cloud. The National Geographic Channel featured Coots and his congregation in the show “Snake Salvation”. Soon, the internet began to light up as the family sold their particular brand of “salvation” and “gospel truth” to the ever hungry meat-grinder of popular media and fast-food reality television.
Jamie Coots was arrested in 2008 in Kentucky for possession of venomous snakes without permit. He had 74 snakes in his home at the time. His legal trouble resurfaced in February of 2013 in a court in Knox County, Tennessee, when he received a year’s probation for transporting venomous snakes through the state of Tennessee while en route to Kentucky. During both investigations, the snakes were found to be severely neglected, infested with parasites, extremely ill and dehydrated. The snakes that were seized from Coots in 2008 and 2013 had to be euthanized. Coots is reported to have traveled to Tennessee and Alabama frequently to purchase venomous snakes from various dealers. These snakes were reported to often be infested with parasites. Public handling of venomous snakes outside of an educational or scientific environment is illegal in all states save for West Virginia.
I must admit, I smiled when I read the headline as it came across my news feed. I rarely take pleasure in hearing news of a death. I usually reserve that sort of disdain for despots and murderers, yet in this case, I will make a rare exception. It seems a sort of grim, poetic justice, after hearing news of Coot’s gross neglect of the snakes in his possession. I grew up in the United Pentecostal Church, and the sort of religion you see on “Snake Salvation” is certainly not accepted by the wider Pentecostal and Apostolic church congregations. I hold little respect for this sort of religion and even less respect for those who neglect any sort of animal to further their ego and to fatten their wallet.
“The Middlesboro Police Department said that at around 8 p.m., they responded to a possible snake bite at the Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus [sic] Name church, but that its pastor, the star of the National Geographic Channel’s Snake Salvation, Jamie Coots, had already left the scene by the time they arrived.
EMS responders then went to Coots’ home, where he was found suffering from what they believed was a snake bite. They attempted to administer treatment, but Coots refused on account of his belief that God would not allow him to die from a snake bite. He died at his home at approximately 10 p.m.”
A big thanks to John Coltharp for the local lead on this story.