People in WV relate to snake handling death - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

People in WV relate to snake handling death

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MATOAKA -

After a Kentucky pastor dies from a snake bite that happened during a religious ceremony... people in West Virginia are reminded of a similar situation that happened here.
This same incident was all too familiar to a small community in Mercer County.
Back in 2012 - a snake handling pastor in Matoaka passed away after he was bitten by a snake. We found out, the practice was wildly popular in southern West Virginia for the past 50 years or more.

People in Mercer County said they remembered these churches growing up.

"Old man McCoy had a snake handling church over where we lived but we stayed outside! They were pretty big into the snakes," said James Hall.

These Pentecostal followers believe even if you are bitten by a snake or drink deadly poison,  God will keep them alive.

"I'm just as much a believer as these people but I have enough common sense to know that the only good snake is a dead snake and that's the truth," said David White.

While many states in Appalachia still practice snake handling, West Virginia is the only state where it is still legal. Several people we asked said they think it should be banned.
However, others said that if this is what people believe, they're going to do it no matter what.

"It's not right but as far as changing the law it's not going to change peoples mind," said White.

"If they want to play with them they can, but I'm sure not going to," said Hall.

There's actually been some talk in West Virginia about this practice regarding a bill that's moving through the House of Delegates.  The bill would create a law against people owning dangerous wild animals, and some delegates are afraid that would infringe on peoples religious freedoms who want to participate in this snake handling practice.