A pastor who regularly appeared in a reality TV show about snake handling in church has died – of a snakebite.
Coots, an ardent Pentecostal believer had appeared in the National Geographic show Snake Salvation alongside fellow minister Andrew Hamblin.
The practice of handling deadly snakes is based on a Bible passage which suggests poisonous bites will not harm believers as long as they are anointed by God.
The 100-year-old tradition is illegal in most states, though it continues primarily in the rural South.
Coots was reportedly attacked during a 15 February service with his congregation at the Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus Name church in Middlesboro, Kentucky.
The newspaper adds the 42-year-old lost consciousness shortly after the bite, which occurred as he handled three rattlesnakes near the pulpit.
He was taken home where an ambulance arrived after learning he had left the church. Though paramedics tried to take him to hospital, Coots’s family insisted he would have strongly opposed the measure.
His son Cody said: “He always said ‘don’t take me to the doctor’ if he was bitten. It was totally against his religion.”
“Jamie and Andrew believe in a bible passage that suggests a poisonous snakebite will not harm them as long as they are anointed by God’s power. If they don’t practice the ritual of snake handling, they are destined for hell. Hunting the surrounding mountains for deadly serpents and maintaining their church’s snake collection is a way of life for both men. The pastors must frequently battle the law, a disapproving society, and at times even their own families to keep their way of life alive.”
Watch Coots in the National Geographic clip below.
Coots had previously been arrested for keeping 74 snakes in his home and in 2013 was given a year of probation for crossing into Tennessee with venomous snakes, National Geographic reported.
"Those risks were always worth it to him and his congregants as a means to demonstrate their unwavering faith," the statement said.
"We were honoured to be allowed such unique access to Pastor Jamie and his congregation during the course of our show, and give context to his method of worship. Our thoughts are with his family at this difficult time."Suggest a correction