Pastor Andrew Hamblin has an interesting way of practicing his faith. The state seized 53 poisonous snakes from the preacher this week. He is claiming that his religious freedom has been violated because of the seizure.
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Tennessee’s Wildlife Resources Agency took the snakes from the pastor after finding them stored in tanks at the pastor’s Tabernacle Church of God in LaFollete. The snakes were not well taken care of, and they were also not secure. Some were already dead.
“It’s a matter of public safety,” Matt Cameron, press officer for the TWRA’s Region 4, told The NY Daily News. “We weren’t trying to interfere with their religious beliefs at all.”
The church got the attention of the state after there were reports of people dying from snake bites after refusing treatment. But the pastor is expressing outrage over what happened.
“To me, telling someone what they can or cannot have in a worship service is no different than telling someone they can or cannot have a Bible,” Hamblin told WDSU.
The pastor’s practice comes from a passage in the book of Mark. This is where Jesus tells his followers to cast out devils, speak in tongues, and take up serpents.
“We’re still going to do it,” the pastor said. “They may not be kept here like they were. They might not be kept by anybody here but one way or another there will still be serpents took up at this church.”