LaFollette pastor wants to reverse snake handling ban

LaFollette pastor wants to reverse snake handling ban

A small church in LaFollette is breaking the law by handling venomous snakes is part of their worship service A small church in LaFollette is breaking the law by handling venomous snakes is part of their worship service

6 News Anchor/Reporter

LAFOLLETTE (WATE) - A small church in LaFollette is breaking the law, and they want everyone to know it. They 're handling venomous snakes is part of their worship service. They're hoping to repeal the ban in Tennessee, with the help of the Campbell County commission.

The little building overlooking the Cumberland Mountains isn't much from the outside, but inside something unusual is happening. Twice a week, the small congregation gathers to sing, pray, and handle snakes.

Andrew Hamblin, just 21 years old, is the pastor of Tabernacle Church of God in LaFollette. He handled his first snake three years ago at a church in Middlesboro. 

"There was just a perfect peace, love, joy. I can't explain it. It's better felt than told. I can't explain what I felt the first time, but it was almost out of this world," Hamblin said.

He said it's all about obeying God.

"They say well we handle snakes on faith. I say no, we don't handle snakes on faith. I tell people if you're going to be ignorant and handle a snake without the anointment of God, your faith kicks in after it bites you," he said.

The snakes are venomous.

"We've got a canebrake rattler, we have two timber rattlers and we have a southern copperhead," he said.

Hamblin said he takes the book of Mark, Chapter 16, literally: "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;..."

"We're not crazy, we're not lunatics, we're not backwoods hillbillies who sit around in our backyards and play with rattlesnakes all day long. We're Christian people and we're trying to get the lost saved," he said.

Hamblin has been bitten four times. The first time, he said, was the worst.

"The Lord spoke to me and told me to leave it alone. I was 19 years old and I thought no I'm going to take it anyway," Hamblin explained.

He was hospitalized and given anti venom.

"It looked like I was dying, but the Lord really came by for me and had mercy on me. That's all it was. He had mercy on my ignorance," he said.

Hamblin's good friend, West Virginia pastor Randy Wolford, died in May from a snake bite.

"That was his pre-appointed time to go. That was how God has predestined him to die before he was ever born," Hamblin said.

It won't stop him from practicing what he believes.

"It's still the word of God, no matter who dies from it," Hamblin said.

Because of the danger, snake-handling is illegal in Tennessee. Hamblin wants to change that. 

"Why should the state be able to look at me and say you cannot do that which God moves on you to do?" he said Monday night as he asked Campbell County commissioners for a resolution in support of repealing the state ban.

Rep. Dennis Powers told Hamblin he'd need that in order to take the issue to the legislature. Commissioners will vote on the resolution next week.

"If the world could feel just an ounce of what I feel that moves on me to take up serpents, they'd never mock it. They'd never say we are crazy because they'd feel that realness of God," Hamblin said.

Tabernacle Church of God at 345 Longmire Lane in LaFollette holds services every Friday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m. Hamblin said everyone is welcome.

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