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The case against an East Tennessee snake-handling pastor will be heard by a Campbell County grand jury in January.

Andrew Hamblin, pastor of the Tabernacle Church of God in LaFollette, was cited for possession of venomous snakes last month. Hamblin handles the snakes during church services, and at the time of his arrest, had 53 snakes, including rattlesnakes and copperheads.

"I just feel everything went well," Pastor Hamblin said. "I feel everything's going good. I didn't feel nervous or scared or sick to my stomach. I feel the Lord is going to intervene in this."

He was in court on Tuesday, where a judge heard testimony to determine if there was enough evidence against Hamblin to send the case to a grand jury. The grand jury will meet on January 6.

Hamblin and his supporters argue that handling serpents is part of their religion, and should be protected. He had many supporters in court, many of them dressed in red. At a previous court hearing, a supporter said the red symbolized the blood of Christ. They want the charges to be dropped, and for state law to be changed to allow Hamblin to handle snakes in church.

"I hope all of this can be thrown away. I would love, absolutely love it for maybe a statement to be made by somebody, somewhere has the authority to do it-- say 'leave this man alone,'" the pastor added. "Leave his church alone."

If he's found guilty, Hamblin could face up to 11 months and 29 days behind bars, and a $2,500 fine.

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