Cody Coots, the son of the "Snake Salvation" pastor who died earlier this month after being bitten by a serpent, vowed to continue handling the reptiles in church services, saying "I won't step down for anyone."
Jamie Coots, 42, died Feb. 15 after he sustained a rattlesnake bite and refused treatment during a service at the Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus' Name church in Middlesboro, Ky., NBC affiliate WBIR.com reported.
Coots has built an empire on his faith, which was featured last fall on the National Geographic show "Snake Salvation." Coots follows the words of Mark 16:15-18, which encourages men to "take up serpents." He interprets the Bible passage to mean that any man anointed by God won't be hurt by a snake's poisonous bite.
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"Pastor Coots was a lovely, kind man who was good to our crew during the shooting," National Geographic CEO David Lyle said in a statement. "And while it may be hard for some to understand the choices he made due to his deeply held convictions, one cannot help but admire his dedication and bravery."
Now Cody Coots, 21, says he will honor his father's faith and continue running the church.
"For me to step down on those things that he [my dad] taught me, I don't know if he would come back out of his grave and slap me clean across the face," Coots told WBIR.com. "That's how much he believed in it. I mean he was that strong in it. He believed in it enough he died for it, so I won't step down for anyone."
Though Coots has a permit to possess the poisonous serpents in the church, snake handling is illegal in Kentucky, according to the news site. Still, he says he will carry on his dad's wishes as a fourth-generation handler even though it's not the life he envisioned for himself.
"I didn't want this. I told my dad, I said 'I don't want to be pastor. I've seen the way things have happened and I've seen things you have had to take care of. I don't want it.' He said, 'You're next in line. The lord is going to call you anyways,'" Coots said.
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