Snake-handling is a tradition for the Coots family of Kentucky. But months after taking over for his father to lead a Pentecostal church, Cody Coots says he was bitten this week. His father, Jamie, died of a poisonous snakebite in February.
The family has been featured on a reality TV show, as the Two-Way reported:
"[Jamie] Coots, known for handling poisonous rattlesnakes and featured on the National Geographic reality series Snake Salvation, was bitten on his right hand and died in his home after refusing medical treatment, NPR's John Burnett tells our Newscast unit."
Cody Coots, 21, is the pastor of the Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus Name church of Middlesboro, Ky. He tells the Lexington Herald-Leader that after he was bitten by a rattlesnake Monday, his family sent an ambulance away.
"The painful bite caused swelling and he vomited repeatedly," the newspaper reports.
"For a rattler bite, it wasn't bad at all," Coots said.
He added, "I told the Lord that I wouldn't go to the hospital."
Coots says that snakes will be present at the church's service tonight.
Last year, Coots' father showed NPR's John Burnett around his house and snake room, which included rattlesnakes, copperheads and two cottonmouths.
As John reported:
"Coots has been bitten nine times by venomous snakes. Each time he refused medical attention. Half of his right middle finger is gone as a result of a fang from a yellow rattler. In 1995, a woman who was bit in his church refused to go to the hospital; she died on Coots' couch while church members prayed over her."
Jamie Coots told John that he was speaking to the media in order to dispel misunderstandings about snake-handling in churches.
"We sing, we preach, we testify, take up offerings, pray for the sick, everything like everybody else does," he says. "Just, every once in a while, snakes are handled."