A 60-year-old worshipper at a Kentucky Christian church died on Sunday after being bitten by a rattlesnake that he was handling as part of a religious rite.
According to WKYT, the Bell County Sheriff's Office reported that John David Brock was bitten during Sunday morning services at the Mossy Simpson Pentecostal Church. Brock refused medical treatment and died four hours later at his brother's home in the town of Jenson.
County Coroner Jay Steele said that the death is under investigation and that Brock had other health issues that may have complicated his body's reaction to the bite.
Brock worked as a miner for 36 years and was an adherent to the Holiness faith. Some Holiness congregations handle snakes as part of their worship, citing a passage from the Christian Bible's Book of Mark.
True followers of Christ, says Mark 16:18, "will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.”
Holiness followers believe that God will stop the snakes from biting them, and if they do bite, then God will save them from the poisonous effects of the venom.
Holiness Pastor Jamie Coots died in 2014 after being bitten during a service and refusing medical attention. His son Cody Coots continues the deadly practice at the Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus Name in Middlesboro.
Snake handling has been illegal in Kentucky since 1942, but officials mostly look the other way when congregants engage in the practice today.
Holiness churches are mainly confined to the rural south in states like Georgia, Arkansas, Mississippi and Alabama. An estimated 300 churches in the U.S. practice snake-handling as a rite of worship.
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