National Geographic Channel will air a special episode of its series “Snake Salvation” on Thursday at 10 p.m., in honor of its late star, Jamie Coots. The Kentucky pastor recently died Saturday from a snake bite.
The special, “Snake Salvation: They Shall Take Up Serpents,” will be a retrospective highlighting Coots’ belief in the religious ritual of snake handling.
According to National Geographic Channel, the special will also shine a light on the legal troubles Coots encountered in the name of religious snake-handling, which is banned in Kentucky.
“In this special episode, viewers will see that one of Pastor Coots’ biggest obstacles in maintaining his struggling church was also one of his most basic: finding and sustaining the snakes to use in his services,” National Geographic Channel said in a statement Wednesday.
According to NGC, “We followed [Coots] as he embarked on an ambitious plan to acquire deadly western diamondback rattlers in Texas. In addition, Pastor Coots was stopped by police while transporting three rattlesnakes and two copperheads at a routine traffic stop near Knoxville, Tenn. He was ultimately prosecuted by the state District Attorney’s office for illegally possessing and transporting the venomous snakes.”
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Coots, who had twice survived snake bites in the past, died after declining medical treatment for a rattlesnake bite he suffered during a church service Saturday.
The doctrine of snake handling is based on a passage from the Gospel of Mark that reads, “And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.”
“Pastor Coots was a lovely, kind man who was good to our crew during the shooting,” National Geographic Channels CEO David Lyle said. “And while it may be hard for some to understand the choices he made due to his deeply held convictions, one cannot help but admire his dedication and bravery. We wanted to air this episode tomorrow night as a way to give perspective to the world-wide discussion his death has caused.”