- (Photo: NGT)
A preacher featured on the National Geographic reality television series 'Snake Salvation' will go before a Tenn. grand jury next month.
Pastor Andrew Hamblin of Tabernacle Church of God in LaFollette appeared for a preliminary hearing Tuesday over allegations of snake handling and owning dangerous wildlife.
Hamblin was being brought up on charges based on a citation he received last month over owning dozens of poisonous snakes, reported Stephanie Beecken of ABC 6.
"Pastor Andrew Hamblin appeared in court for a preliminary hearing Tuesday afternoon as his supporters gathered around him," wrote Beecken.
"More than a dozen of Hamblin's supporters met at his church before going to the courthouse. Some people even came in from other states to show support during the hearing."
Hamblin is featured on "Snake Salvation" a National Geographic reality TV program that debuted in September. Hamblin belongs to a part of Protestant Christianity known for people handling snakes and other harmful acts, yet reportedly experiencing no ill effects due to spiritual power. They draw their legitimacy from biblical verses like Mark 16: 17-18.
"And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover," reads the biblical passage.
Last month, officers from the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) raided Hamblin's church and found more than 50 poisonous snakes, both native and exotic to Campbell County, Tenn.
The state of Tennessee has a ban on snake handling, which Hamblin believes violates his religious convictions. Officials took the snakes to the Knoxville Zoo.
Later in November, Hamblin was brought before a Campbell County court under the charge of Class 1 Wildlife, where he issued a plea of not guilty.
In his testimony at the preliminary hearing, TWRA Sgt. Joe Durnin described what he had found when investigating the matter.
"I went over to the residence of Andrew Hamblin and asked him about his possession of his class one reptiles," said Durnin.
"I asked if he could show us those snakes that he possessed, and he agreed to let us follow him down to the church."
Hamblin will next go before a Grand Jury in Campbell County, scheduled to take place on Monday, Jan. 6, 2014.