Campbell County preacher appears in court for snake possession

Campbell County preacher appears in court for snake possession

Posted: Updated:
Andrew Hamblin, minister at Tabernacle Church of God in LaFollette, talked to reporters outside the Campbell County Courthouse. Andrew Hamblin, minister at Tabernacle Church of God in LaFollette, talked to reporters outside the Campbell County Courthouse.
Several supporters joined reporters following the court hearing. Several supporters joined reporters following the court hearing.

By JILL MCNEAL
6 News Anchor/Reporter

JACKSBORO (WATE) - A Campbell County preacher and reality TV personality was in court Friday morning for a hearing stemming from the confiscation of snakes used in his ministry.

Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency officers seized 50 venomous snakes from Andrew Hamblin, minister at Tabernacle Church of God in LaFollette last week.

Hamblin was cited for possession of Class 1 Wildlife, which includes animals that are a danger to humans.

Clutching his Bible, Hamblin entered the Campbell County courtroom to a round of applause from his supporters wearing red, until they were silenced by a bailiff. His lawyer entered a plea of not guilty and a preliminary hearing was set for December 17.

"If God moves on me and I feel led by and through the Holy Ghost to reach my arm into a box of rattlesnakes, I should have my religious right to do that," Hamblin told his crowd of supporters outside the courtroom. "They came right into the house of God and just ripped them away. That would be no different if they just came and ripped your Bible out of First Baptist."

Among Hamblin's allies at the courthouse was his snake-handling mentor and co-star on the National Geographic Channel series "Snake Salvation," Pastor Jamie Coots from Middlesboro, KY.

"If they can take our rights, they're taking somebody else's next. They're not going to stop," said Coots. 

That's why people like Belinda Wilson from Claiborne County came to the courthouse. She doesn't know Hamblin or practice as he does, but she defends his right to do so.

"No matter if you believe in handling snakes or not, he's a Christian and you have to stand behind other Christians. It wouldn't be no different if they came and took our Bibles away. That's their belief," she said. 

Is snake handling protected as religious freedom?

"The analogy that next they'll come take the Bible is really very far afield. I'm not aware of any situation where anyone has been injured or fights have broken out with Bible thumping and slapping," said 6 News legal analyst Greg Isaacs. "I think the pastor's sermon that he has the right to do it would probably fall on deaf ears in the courts. You absolutely have a right to your religious freedom, but you do not have a right to endanger others."

"I respect the man for his convictions, but I think he's as wrong as wrong can be. I think the state is doing the right thing by saying we cannot allow people to endanger themselves in this way or endanger others," said Mark Smith, senior minister at Laurel Church of Christ.

"Christians, we're a large family, and maybe like in your family you've got some eccentric people, you still love them, you don't judge them, but they're a little different. So I don't judge what he does, but I would say he probably needs to follow under the laws of the land," said Dr. Chris Stephens, senior pastor of Faith Promise Church.

 

 

Powered by WorldNow

1306 N. Broadway NE Knoxville,
Tennessee 37917

Telephone: 865.637.NEWS(6397)
Fax: 865.525.4091
Email: newsroom@wate.com

Can’t find something?
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Young Broadcasting of Knoxville, Inc. A Media General Company.