DefinitionAmovement of loosely organised bible-thumping fundamentalist Pentecostal churches, ministers and itinerant preachers who handle poisonous snakes as part of their weekly rituals and sermons.
Comment Snake handling is a ritual based on an interpretation of Mark 16:17-20 and Luke 10:19 in the Bible. George Went Hensley is commonly considered the “Father of contemporary serpent handling“; he was born ±1880 in the hills of Tennessee, began the practice in 1908 and died in 1955, not surprisingly, from a snake bite, There are between 1000 and 2000 snake handler church members, including those who do not handle snakes; the practice is controversial in that it pits the First Amendment freedoms of religious expression against the States’ interest in protecting the safety of snake handlers’ minor children, and other non-participants, potentially triggering felony charges against participants. They can be found as far south as Florida, as far west as Ohio and as far north as West Virginia
Synonyms Church of God with Signs Following, serpent handlers