Snake Handling


Why do people practice snake handling?

Snake handling is a rare activity practiced by a small number of Pentecostal congregations on the basis on Mark 16:17-18. Practitioners believe snake handling is a demonstration of their faith in God.

While advocates of snake handling come out of Pentecostal churches, no major Christian denomination, Pentecostal or otherwise, supports the practice. One of the original leaders of snake handling in the United States, George Hensley, broke away from the Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee), because of his allegiance to the doctrine.

Most snake handlers are found in Alabama, George, and Kentucky, Tennessee, and West Virginia. Some states such as Alabama, Kentucky, and Tennessee, have made the activity illegal, punishable by fine, but it still occurs because practicing churches are mostly in rural settings.

Congregations where snake handling occurs tend to be very small. Snake handlers have reportedly been bitten on numerous occasions. Some have even died. Notably, in 1998, evangelist John Wayne Brown, died after being bitten while handling a snake in an Alabama church. His wife also died from a snake bite.