From time to time valorous men rise up in the United States and take a Stand for that which is right. When taking this into consideration it is prudent to understand that there are battlefields both abroad and domestic; PHYSICAL AND SPIRITUAL. The Story I am going to tell is based upon a domestic war which is being waged. This war, both physical and spiritual in dimension, is currently well under way here in East Tennessee.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. — The First Amendment to the United States Constitution.
Pastor Andrew Hamblin is a 22 year old Pastor currently living in La Follette, TN. He is literally right up the road from us a piece. He ministers at the Tabernacle Church of God. Probably most well known for the National Geographic Series Snake Salvation, Hamblin has a fervent desire to worship the L-rd his G-d in a distinct way — he believes that the taking up of serpents is a Biblical Command. Hamblin draws his belief from the following Scripture,
King James Version (KJV)
17 And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues;
18 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.
This story, though, is not about the handling of snakes inasmuch as Pastor Hamblin does such. Nor is this story about NatGeo doing a documentary and then pulling the plug as it might begin to taint their advertising revenue. What this story is about pertains to the fact that what we have currently going on in Tennessee may very well be the Introduction to how the End Times are going to go down. The irony of this story, as well, is that I am not particularly what one might call a religious person.
The United States Government along with its Several Freely Associated States have been falling down a very slippery slope with respect to the evisceration of Constitutionally Guaranteed Civil Rights for decades now. More on that in a minute; what I want to talk about first, though, is the Constitutional Assault upon Pastor Andrew Hamblin by and through Draconian and selective application of Tennessee State Law.
The State of Tennessee, in 1947, enacted a law making illegal the possession of Class I animals predominately in response to five deaths within Churches from serpent bites. Violation of the law may lead to a fine of $50 to $150 or up to six months in jail. Interestingly, the ban is rarely enforced unless someone dies in Church or as a direct result of animal mills or some other type of nefarious production. He is technically charged with violation of Tenn. Code Ann § 39-17-101.
Tenn. Code Ann § 39-17-101
Summary: This Tennessee law makes it an offense for a person to display, exhibit, handle, or use a poisonous or dangerous snake or reptile in a manner that endangers the life or health of any person. Violation is a Class C misdemeanor.
Statute in Full:
(a) It is an offense for a person to display, exhibit, handle, or use a poisonous or dangerous snake or reptile in a manner that endangers the life or health of any person.
(b) An offense under this section is a Class C misdemeanor.
TENN. CODE ANN §70-4-401 – Prohibited acts.
(a) It is unlawful for any person to possess, transport, import, export, buy, sell, barter, propagate or transfer any wildlife, whether indigenous to this state or not, except as provided by this part and rules and regulations promulgated by the Tennessee wildlife resources commission pursuant to this part.
(b) No person shall possess Class I or Class II wildlife without having documentary evidence showing the name and address of the supplier of such wildlife and date of acquisition.
The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) seems to have a vendetta against snake handlers. Pastor Jamie Coots, a fellow snake handling Pastor from Middlesboro, KY, also profiled on NatGeo, recently ran afoul of the State of Tennessee down here in Knoxville. It would seem, prima facie, that snake handling is on par with cocaine possession today — my bad because cocaine possession is generally rewarded with accolades and government grants. Cocaine possession and gangster life mentality is praised and elevated by the very same media which propped up Pastors Hamblin and Coots and then when the advertising revenues sensed the Winds of Change; when the Advertising Moguls figured out that it was no longer en vogue; these same folks at NatGeo and half a dozen other media outlets realized that there was a new story to chase.
What is on trial here is not whether or not Pastor Hamblin believes the handling of snakes are a Command from G-d; what is on trial is whether or not a State has the right to trespass upon the Religious Liberties of Consenting Adults. Make no mistake about this. In a time when Islam is hallowed throughout the Halls of Government as the best thing since sliced bread, anything which is considered deviant to Mainstream Christianity ergo anything not acceptable to Washington, must be silenced.
The snakes in question here were stored in the Church. Now, I am no legal scholar; however, I have not heard of any mistreatment of the snakes. I also am pretty sure that anyone attending the Tabernacle Church of God did such freely, willingly and with overt intention. I mean let us not kid around here, Tabernacle Church of God is not right off the Expressway in a Stadium type environment which is all the flavor in Mainstream Christianity.
More on point though and what I believe is being lost here is the simple fact that Andrew Hamblin is a Pastor. This is a person whom is ecclesiastically empowered by Members of his Congregation to dispense not only the Word of G-d, but as required he Interprets the Word of G-d. Whether we are talking about transubstantiation at the Spiritual Level or something such as whether or not Leviticus 11 is still valid with respect to dietary law, Pastor Andrew Hamblin is the Chief Apologist for his Congregation.
There are roughly 4,200 religions on earth. Within the United States many of them are practiced. We uphold the legal rights of Jews to throttle chicken until dead and bloody; we allow Muslims to blare their Call to Prayer 5 times a day upsetting the peace and tranquility of communities; we allow the Wiccans to dance naked (this link is not suitable for children); and even the Satanists get play — note that ALL OF THESE ARE PUBLIC DISPLAYS.
Pastor Andrew Hablin’s handling of snakes; the handling of snakes by his Congregation, takes place in a controlled setting. Now, I know that the first thing that is going to come up is, “Yeah, but what if someone gets bit?” Well, when Jehovah Witnesses are injured they do not allow blood transfusions. When juxtaposed, should someone be bit, the Congregation prays over the person.
Each and every day Americans perform life threatening feats which not only threaten their own lives, but those around us. An automobile is a prime case-in-point. Sans the drunk driving argument, the elderly and adolescent get behind the wheel each and every day and kill people. Do we outlaw the automobile? No. We attempt to create a framework wherein this privilege — driving is a privilege and not a right by the way — becomes an acceptable risk. How about athletics? Here is a MULTI BILLION DOLLAR enterprise which is programmed into global society and kills more people monthly than in all the recorded deaths of Church snake handling combined!
Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, from a pathophysiological point-of-view, kills approximately 100 adolescents each and every year in the United States. Causation? There is a direct correlation between adolescent athletic participation and hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Should we go ahead and end sports?
Pastor Andrew Hamblin, a Man of G-d, is being persecuted for his deeply held religious beliefs. In a time when even those incarcerated have the Legal Right to Practice Religion according to their beliefs what we have here, by proxy, is the denial of Pastor Andrew Hamblin’s Congregation’s Civil Rights.
“The wife of a prison inmate who is not permitted to read all that her husband wanted to say to her has suffered an abridgment of her interest in communicating with him as plain as that which results from censorship of her letter to him,” Justice Lewis Powell wrote. “In either event, censorship of prisoner mail works a consequential restriction on the First and Fourteenth Amendments rights of those who are not prisoners.”
In his concurring opinion, Justice Thurgood Marshall expressed even more solicitude for inmate free-speech rights. “The First Amendment serves not only the needs of the polity but also those of the human spirit — a spirit that demands self-expression,” he wrote. “When the prison gates slam behind an inmate, he does not lose his human quality; his mind does not become closed to ideas; his intellect does not cease to feed on a free and open interchange of opinions; his yearning for self-respect does not end; nor is his quest for self-realization concluded.”
Why the relegation to Prisoner Rights one might ask? More on point, how is the Freedom of Speech related to the Freedom of Religion? Well, I consider Pastor Andrew Hamblin a Prisoner of an unG-dly Regime; when the State of Tennessee has the ability to legislatively address a law which is unconstitutional and instead attacks a Man of G-d it is both unholy and unotrhodox.
“All laws which are repugnant to the Constitution, are null and void.” Chief Justice Marshall, Marbury v. Madison, 5, U.S. (Cranch) 137, 174, 176
First, if Pastor Andrew Hamblin’s First and Fourteenth Amendment Rights are being violated — and any first year law student should be able to Sheppardize this — his Congregation, by proxy, have the same Grievances. Second, if the Religious Belief is deeply held that the handling of snakes is vital to their intimate Relationship with the L-rd their G-d, then all impacted — in theory ALL THOSE IMPACTED WITHIN THE UNITED STATES AND ITS TERRITORIES — are a Member of a Class. That Class is generally defined by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (Fed. R. Civ. P.) Rule 23.
More to the heart of the matter. Pastor Andrew Hamblin is going to find No Joy in the Conservative Mainstream Christian Judiciary within the State of Tennessee. Pastor Andrew Hamblin and his Congregation, albeit they will have to exhaust their State Remedies, will have to elevate their Claim to that of 42 United States Code 1983 (42 U.S.C. § 1983) and more specifically I believe a novel Claim under 42 USC 2000 et seq. (42 U.S.C. § 2000 et seq.).
I am going to leave it here tonight. I am hopeful that Pastor Andrew Hamblin will reach out to me again and allow for a detailed Interview which doesn’t have the five second sound bites the Drive By Media is so famous for. Ladies and gentlemen, have no doubt that today it is the snakes; tomorrow it will be the Bibles! This story is going to occupy a good part of my time going forward. While I care about Contractors, this is a Religious War going on in my Backyard.