Serpent Handling and the Law

Ralph W. Hood Jr. and W. Paul Williamson

in Them That Believe

Published by University of California Press

Published in print September 2008 | ISBN: 9780520231474
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520942714 | DOI:
Serpent Handling and the Law

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This chapter presents the history of the laws that have targeted serpent-handling Christians. In the view of public officials, this religious practice is a danger both to those who engage in it and to those who simply gather to observe it. The experimental research illustrates that prejudice against serpent handlers—rather than rational reasoning—was and is the most likely motivation for the persistence and enforcement of these laws. It explores the history of legislation against serpent-handling churches and the success of this legislation in appellate courts. It investigates both rational and prejudicial reasons for opposition to serpent handlers and discusses a study in which the presentation of factual information regarding serpent-handling churches alters people's opinions on whether laws banning serpent handling override one's religious freedom to practice his or her beliefs, even at the risk of harm.

Keywords: serpent-handling Christians; serpent handlers; legislation; appellate courts; empirical studies

Chapter.  7424 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

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