Yessir, while Alabama legislators are lining up like lemmings to jump off the constitutional cliff — to do otherwise would suggest to the folks back home that they might somehow be in favor of things like graven images and adultery — Tennessee legislators are letting the state confiscate items used in Christian worship and the box they rode in on.
And what might Tennessee be confiscating?
Pastor Gregory Coots, known to his friends as “Jamie,” of the Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus Name Church in Middlesboro, Ky., drove down to Eastaboga (yep, our Eastaboga) and bought five snakes — three rattlers and a couple of copperheads — for $800. The snakes were to be used in services at his church, for in chapter 16 of the Gospel according to St. Mark (KJV), “them that believe” should be able to do a whole bunch of things them that don’t believe can’t do, including “take up serpents.”
You can imagine that it is pretty hard to “take up serpents” unless you have serpents.
Which is why Pastor Coots traveled to Eastaboga and bought some. But before he could get them home and handled, he was stopped by Tennessee authorities who took up the serpents themselves and charged the minister with not only transporting illegal reptiles, but also with transporting snakes in improper containers.
Now, I should pause here to point out that in addition to treading on Pastor Coots’ religious liberties, Tennessee also is threatening the snake-selling industry in Eastaboga, a bit of commerce of which I was not aware. Surely this deserves the attention of the Business Council of Alabama and our legislators — especially those who harp on the fact that they are friends of small businesses, which this seems to be.
So here we have a situation that appears to be just as important as finding a way to get around restrictions on displaying the Ten Commandments, restrictions which, according to one of the displaying supporters, is nothing more than the “interpretation of the law by liberal judges who change it to suit their communist agenda.”
Which brings us back to those Tennessee legislators who passed the law that Tennessee law-enforcers were enforcing.
OK, the snakes were dangerous, but (according to the theological bend of folks like those in Pastor Coots’ flock) they are not dangerous to “them that believe.” Just because Tennessee legislators and law-enforcers are not “in the word,” as folks in “Jesus Churches” are wont to say, should they deny “them that believe” the opportunity to reveal their faith to their brothers and sisters assembled?
Yet, Tennessee legislators went out and did it — and hurt an Alabama industry in the process.
Same thing could occur if the Ten Commandments get displayed.
What would happen if the Ten Commandments were put up and read and folks began taking the “Thou Shall Not Kill” (KJV) commandment as seriously as Pastor Coots and his congregation take “taking up serpents”? Think about it. If Ten Commandments literalists took “Thou Shall Not Kill” literally and quit buying guns with which to kill people, the firearm industry would suffer.
Could gun control be part of the agenda of those wanting to display the Ten Commandments, an agenda those “liberal judges” are out to prevent the Ten Commandments displayers from carrying out?
Makes you wonder.
Or maybe it doesn’t.
Meanwhile, Pastor Coots wants his snakes and the boxes they were in. Though those boxes do not meet the Volunteer State’s requirements for snake transportation — another of those rules that subvert religious freedom — they mean a lot to the preacher. Not that it matters to Tennessee officials as they pursue their liberal, maybe even communist, agenda — an agenda that is clearly anti-Christian and maybe even anti-capitalist.
Unless Tennessee plans to start up its own snake-selling industry.
Could that be it?
From where I stand, it seems that what Tennessee is doing is a far greater threat to the free practice of religion than hanging a bunch of Christian-King James Version Commandments on the wall for folks to see and be reminded that they should not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.
But Tennessee legislators did what they did, and I am yet to hear a whimper of support for Pastor Coots.
Doesn’t Tennessee have a Gerald Dial to show people how to get around the law like we do?
Maybe we should loan them ours.
Harvey H. (“Hardy”) Jackson is Eminent Scholar in History at Jacksonville State University and a columnist and editorial writer for The Star. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.