Snake-handling resolution fails, pastor continues to challenge law

11:57 PM, Jul 16, 2012   |    comments
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Andrew Hamblin uses snakes during worship at the Tabernacle Church of God in La Follette

An East Tennessee pastor is challenging a state law that he claims restricts how he worships.

Andrew Hamblin is the pastor of the Tabernacle Church of God in La Follette, where he routinely handles snakes during services. The 21 year-old pastor believes his church is like any other Pentecostal church, but takes worship one step further.

"My main thing is to see lost people saved," he said. "If I could tell the world just that, but I'd love to do it under the anointment of God with two 'rattlers' in my hand!"

However, Tennessee state law prohibits anyone from owning venomous snakes - making Hamblin's practice during services illegal.

He put the issue before local leaders at the Campbell County Commission. Monday night, commissioners voted on a resolution to repeal the state law.

The resolution failed, by a 10 to two vote.

While the pastor says he was disappointed by the vote, he understands the commissioners' and public's concerns. According to his rules of service, nobody under the age of eighteen is allowed to handle the reptiles, and new members must prove their dedication to faith before they can participate in that way.

Though the resolution failed, Hamblin doesn't plan to change his form of worship anytime soon. He also promises to continue his fight to change Tennessee law.

"Our people of our faith deserve that, just like any other people of their faith deserves the right to have legal grounds to say - 'Hey, I can worship how I feel led to worship.'"

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