• Criminalizing Christianity – Taking Up of Serpents

    May 10, 2012 8:50 pm 42 comments
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  • America’s War on God

    “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.” – Mark 16: 17-18

    By Rev. Billy Ray Sunday

    <chris†wire> Our Founding Fathers opposed state-sponsored religion thereby restraining the government from mandating a state religion; commonly referred to as separation of church and state. They also guaranteed all Americans the freedom of religion as scribed in the First Amendment of the US Constitution.

    The Founding Fathers lived during a time when being literate or having an education was not available to everyone. It was therefore their intention to use common language when drafting the First Amendment to assure the common man would be capable of comprehending the text and intent of the law.

    In September 1789 the Congress adopted the First Amendment to the Constitution, which, when ratified by the required number of states in December 1791, forbade Congress to make any law “respecting an establishment of religion.”

    As our Founding Fathers intended the language used in the First Amendment is still clear to us centuries later. The First Amendment forbids Congress to enact any law respecting an establishment of religion.

    So what does this mean? Would the First Amendment protect human sacrifice in religious ceremonies? No, human sacrifice is not protected under the First Amendment because of the free-exercise clause. The Supreme Court has interpreted this clause so that the freedom to believe is absolute, but the ability to act on those beliefs is not.

    The Taking Up of Serpents

    Although the text is absolute, the clause should not be interpreted to mean absolute right to a course of conduct just because it is permitted by one’s religion. The courts place some limits on the exercise of religion. Human sacrifice, polygamy, obscenity, child pornography, true threats, fighting words, incitement to imminent lawless action, criminal solicitation or defamation are not protected under the First Amendment.

    From the above list of exclusions not protected under the First Amendment it’s clear the government has used the free-exercise clause to prohibit already existing criminal offenses such as, murder, polygamy, obscenity, crimes against children, terrorist threats,
    riot, and unlawful solicitation. The only non-criminal offense listed is defamation which generally falls under civil statutes.  

    ¹ The use of the word “respecting” in this context as a transitive verb is defined as, “to pay due attention to and refrain from violating something.” In this case the First Amendment.

    Holiness Serpent Handlers

    Serpent Handling Christian Worship Service

    The taking up of serpents has been an established part of Christian worship in the US and parts of Canada for over 100 years. Geographically the practice in the US has been limited to churches in some southern states. A practice whose origins are found in the Appalachian Mountains of the South.

    For serpent-handling churches the verses in Mark 16: 17-18 hold no symbolic value, they are the literal words of Jesus Christ from the gospel of Mark. The first serpent-handler was Moses. God turns the rod of Moses into a serpent in the Book of Genesis; Moses then picked up the serpent out of his faith and trust for God.

    Mark 16: 17-18 gives five signs that when practiced will follow them that believe. The signs are: Speaking in tongues, healing the sick, casting out of demons, taking up serpents and drinking poison. Today Jack-Christians aka: Counterfeit Christians are willing to believe in the first three signs, but reject the last two. The Bible says that “these signs will follow them that believe.” No place does Scripture say followers can pick and choose what signs they will practice.

    Sister Martha Exercising Her 1st Amendment Right to Worship

    The taking up of serpents therefore is nothing more than an act of faith. The intent of the First Amendment is not to use the free-exercise clause to criminalize acts of faith which if they were to occur outside the church would not fall under criminal or civil statutes. But in the case of serpent handling churches several states have enacted state statutes that outlaw this act of faith. It is outright discrimination and persecution of Christians solely based on our religious faith.

    If you or I were to walk out into our backyard and get bit by a poisonous snake and were to die as a result of the bite, have we broken any laws? No. As Christians we would see this incident as an act of God. The Lord called us home when it was our time. In others words this would never be treated as a homicide. By the way should the bite not prove to be fatal Christians would recognize this as an act of God to, it simply wasn’t our time yet. And the police would not arrest the snake for my attempted murder.

    Brother Junior “J.W.” Warren Freely Worships in Church

    Same circumstances, you walk into your yard and see a deadly snake and decide to pick it up. Have you broken a law? The church is God’s house and Christian petitioners recognize the church as an extension of our own homes. So if you or I decided to attend a church service where snake-handling occurs as an act of faith, are we breaking the law? And say I were bitten during the service and died as a result, I know it’s my time to be with the Lord.

    There is NO CRIME here… only freewill to practice one’s own faith. I am often asked to explain myself as an Alabama serpent-handling preacher in a state that has outlawed the taking up of serpents during church services or in worship. My answer comes from the Bible… Scripture commands us to obey the laws of man. However the laws of man hold no weight with us since this one law goes against the covenant of God. And the Bible teaches “better to obey God than to obey man.”

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    Praise the Lord!

    Rev. Billy Ray Sunday

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    About The Author
    Rev. Billy Ray Rev. Billy Ray Sunday is 3rd generation preacher. He lives in Forkland, AL and is a journalist for chrisTwire.com.

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