A Kentucky pastor says that the state of Tennessee was wrong to confiscate five poisonous snakes that were intended for worship services and he wants them back.
Pastor Gregory Coots, who goes by the name Jamie, told WYMT that he was on his way back from purchasing the snakes in Alabama when the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency took possession of the three rattlesnakes and two copperheads at a traffic stop.
“He wanted to know if I had any documentation and I told him no,” Coots recalled. “He came back a few minutes later and said he was going to take the snakes and containers.”
“It’s really frustrating to say the least,” he added. “Years we’ve traveled and went and got them and never anything, I don’t know.”
The snakes were purchased to be used in worship services the Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus Name Church in Middlesboro. But they are now living at a zoo in Sevierville, Tennessee.
Coots said that he could replace the snakes, but the containers holding them were very important.
“One means more to me more than a lot of worldly possessions. I’ve had it a long time. The other three, I feel it’s my property,” he explained.
Over the years, Coots has posted a number of videos on his YouTube channel showing the serpent-handling services at his church. Kentucky Fish and Wildlife busted the pastor in 2008 for illegally trading venomous snakes. The more than 100 snakes confiscated at the time included “42 copperheads, 11 timber rattlesnakes, three cottonmouth water moccasins, a western diamondback rattlesnake, two cobras and a puff adder,” according to The Associated Press.
Coots was placed on probation after the 2008 arrest, but he now claims to have a permit for the deadly reptiles.
Watch this video from WYMT, broadcast Feb. 12, 2013.