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Right to worship but only the ‘right’ way?

Kathy Lilje • Feb 19, 2014 at 4:50 PM

The headline this weekend read “Snakehandling minister dies from snake bite” Jamie Coots, of Middleboro, Ky., had been bitten before, but the minister at Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus Name Church continued to take up serpents in accordance to his beliefs as written in the King James Bible Mark 16:17-18.

In this Gospel account, it reads: “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”

How Jamie Coots chose to pay tribute to his God was his business. I’m certainly not qualified to judge him, nor is anyone else but his God.

The thing that has me bothered today is how many people feel they are qualified to pass judgement on his actions.

The Internet is abuzz with condemnation of snake-handling churches. Given that many sites allow online commenting, I’m not surprised by the self-righteousness of some who feel compelled to add to Coots’ family’s sadness by branding him “an idiot, a dumb hillbilly or worse” We see negative comments every day from those who clearly consider themselves superior in intellect to everyone from a backwoods preacher to the President of the United States.

What surprises me is how many supposedly open-minded supporters of the Constitution say everyone has the right to worship as he or she sees fit, except....

Except who? Religious tolerance isn’t pick and choose. It’s all in or all out. No matter that snake-handling members of the Churches of God with Signs Following, and the like, number probably less than 5,000. It really wouldn’t matter if the number was 500, or 50 or even 5. Those individuals have the same rights that all of us have.

A man’s death — particularly one that could have been prevented — is always a sad thing. Because you or I didn’t share his beliefs doesn’t make it less so.

Intolerance to other’s beliefs or lack of beliefs is hateful and it diminishes who you are.

But let the haters hate, their time to be judged will come. As for Jamie Coots — he was a man who lived and died his faith. Others have done the same thing. It’s just strange to me that Joan of Arc and other martyrs are revered as saints and Pastor Coots is called an idiot.

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