In an update to charges against a snake-handling, reality-TV subject, Pentecostal pastor gets what he wants, does not get into too much trouble for illegal reptile possession. But probably will do it again. Freedom of religion, you know.
Campbell County pastor Andrew Hamblin will not face any criminal charges after a grand jury decided Wednesday not to indict him.
In November, Pastor Hamblin was cited for having animal dangerous to humans after state wildlife agents seized some 50 venomous snakes, including copperheads and rattlesnakes, from Tabernacle Church of God. Pastor Hamblin said his congregation uses the poisonous snakes as a part of their religious service.
Following the seizure of the snakes, parishioners and many others rallied around the pastor and called for the snakes to be returned to the church.
“To me it violated my right as an American to have my freedom of religion. It shouldn’t matter to people if the Lord moves on me and I feel like I need to take up a six-foot rattlesnake. I should have that God-given right,” he said.
Although the grand jury did not indict Pastor Hamblin, the Campbell County pastor said his church will not get the snakes back.
The issue was not freedom of religion. It was having illegal, dangerous reptiles without a permit. Note in this article that the zookeepers who have confiscated the snakes noted they were in poor condition, many died, the rest are unhealthy because they were not properly cared for. It’s also completely irresponsble to handle potentially deadly animals in public like this. This religious argument is a red herring. I suspect the pastor will attempt to continue this practice. I hope the official continue to inspect his establishment and enforce the law.