snake handlers

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snake handlers

A movement of loosely organised fundamentalist Pentecostal churches, ministers and itinerant preachers, who handle poisonous snakes as part of their weekly ritual and sermons. Snake handling is a ritual based on an interpretation of Mark 16:17-20 and Luke 10:19 in the Bible. George Went Hensley (born circa 1880) began the practice in 1908, and is commonly considered the "father of contemporary serpent handling"; he died in 1955 from a snake bite.

There are between 1000 and 2000 snake handler church members, including those who do not handle snakes. The practice is controversial in that it pits the US First Amendment freedoms of religious expression against the states’ interest in protecting the safety of snake handlers’ minor children and other non-participants, potentially triggering felony charges against participants.
References in periodicals archive ?
Fun for the family Experience what it's like to handle these fascinating serpents in separate snake handling sessions over the summer holidays where visitors can actually touch these beautiful creatures.
Nonetheless, they are often bitten and die, which is why snake handling as a religious practice is illegal in many states.
When asked about his take on retiring from snake handling as he sat next to metal platform where he once performed his many snake shows, Hung gazed at his mangled fingers, and said that he was taking the opportunity to retire and take care of his body.
A firefighter and snake handling trainer places a rescued snake into a bin at a fire station in Bangkok.
Some of them treat expected topics such as the Azusa Street Mission and Revival, baptism of the Holy Spirit, exorcism, prophecy, snake handling, healing, and the Word of Faith movement.
After donning forensic suits they entered the property carrying a snake handling pole and over the next 20 minutes removed about a dozen large tupperware boxes each containing a snake - some labelled with names.
The practice of snake handling in the United States was first documented in the mountains of East Tennessee in the early 20th Century, according to Paul Williamson, a professor of psychology at Henderson State University who, along with Hood, co-wrote a book about snake handlers called, ''Them That Believe.'' In the 1940s and 1950s, many states made snake-handling illegal (it's currently illegal in Kentucky), but the practice has continued, and often law enforcement simply looks the other way.
America today has a very mixed religious following, including a Christian snake handling sect.
Snake handling is illegal in several states, including Alabama, Tennessee and Kentucky.
And if this transition doesn't happen too quickly, there's always snake handling, or naturally induced forms of rapture that keep folks glued to what matters.
Dennis Covington's Salvation on Sand Mountain: Snake Handling and Redemption in Southern Appalachia was a 1995 National Book Award finalist in nonfiction.