Evangelical Philosophical SocietyArticle Reprint

Religious Liberty and Snake Handling Churches

by Gregory L. Bock

Handling poisonous snakes in religious services is illegal in some states, but should it be?

In this paper, I will examine the meaning of religious liberty by exploring Martha Nussbaum’s work on religious tolerance and applying the theories of John Locke and Roger Williams to the issue of snake-handling churches.

Using the recent National Geographic television series, "Snake Salvation" (2013), as a point of departure, I will argue on the basis of the ideas espoused by Locke and Williams that snake-handling churches should be allowed to use venomous snakes under certain conditions.

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