Kentucky snake handler death doesn't shake belief

(AP) -- Just days after pastor Jamie Coots died from a rattlesnake bite at church, mourners leaving the funeral went to the church to handle snakes.

Coots, who appeared on the National Geographic Channel's "Snake Salvation," pastored the Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus Name church founded by his grandfather in Middlesboro, Ky. He died Feb. 15.

Coots and fellow believers cite a passage in the Bible as evidence that they are commanded by God to handle snakes.

The practice of snake handling in the United States was first documented in the mountains of East Tennessee during the early days of Pentecostalism at the turn of the 20th Century.

Today the practice is most common in Southern Appalachian states, and snake handlers often use native rattlesnakes and copperheads.

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