Snake Handler said God protected him from poison…then he died from a snake bite

By Andrew Scot Bolsinger

A controversial Kentucky-based pastor known for handling poisonous snakes in worship services died Saturday following being bitten by a viper, according to a CNN report.

Pastor Jamie Coots starred in a National Geographic reality show called, Snake Salvation.

Coots believed snake handling was a commandment from God. He said a viper’s bite was God’s will. During an episode of the show, Coots said he’d never seek medical attention for a bite

“When I first started church I said if I ever went to a hospital or a doctor over a snake bite I would quit church,” Coots said.

He proved true to his word. Coots refused to be treated shortly before dying, according to police reports.

The Pentecostal preacher had been bitten once before. He refused treatment on his middle finger, which blackened and rotted to the bone.

On Sunday, National Geographic Channels spokeswoman Stephanie Montgomery sent CNN this statement: “In following Pastor Coots for our series Snake Salvation, we were constantly struck by his devout religious convictions despite the health and legal peril he often faced.

“Those risks were always worth it to him and his congregants as a means to demonstrate their unwavering faith. We were honored 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.”

Coots snake handling landed him in legal troubles over the years. He was sentenced in February 2013 to a year of probation for crossing into Tennessee with venomous snakes, and he was also arrested in 2008 for keeping 74 snakes in his home, according to National Geographic.

“To me (snake handling is) as much of a commandment from God when he said, ‘they shall take up serpents’ as it was when he ‘thou shall not commit adultery,” Coots said on an episode of his show.


Andrew Scot Bolsinger won more than two dozen press awards during his journalism career. He is a freelance writer, author and operates, which is focused on prison reform. He can reached at