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Tennessee Pastor Disputes Wildlife Possession Charge By State

Publication Date: 
November 15, 2013
Source: 
The New York Times
Author: 
Alan Blinder

James A. Sonne, director of the SLS Religious Liberty Clinic, comments on a case being brought against a Tennessee preacher for the illegal use of animals during religious services. 

In a mix of old-time religion, modern media and Tennessee law, a 22-year-old preacher who has become a reality television star because of his experience in handling poisonous snakes pleaded not guilty on Friday to illegally keeping dozens of them that he and his congregants routinely touch during worship services.

Andrew Hamblin, pastor of the Tabernacle Church of God in nearby LaFollette and a star of “Snake Salvation,” a recent series on the National Geographic Channel, said he hoped to turn the case against him in Campbell County General Sessions Court into a new front in the battle for religious liberty.

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“It all really comes down to whether or not there are exceptions for other reasons, and that’s really the key factor,” said James A. Sonne, the director of the Religious Liberty Clinic at Stanford Law School. “The devil is going to be in the details.”