Kentucky woman fatally bitten by snake during church service

A southeastern Kentucky woman was bitten by a snake during church and died, a law enforcement officer said.

The woman, whose name was being withheld pending the investigation, died at 11:30 p.m. EST Sunday at University of Kentucky Medical Center, about four hours after the bite was reported, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported Tuesday.

Officials said the 48-year-old London woman attended East London Holiness Church. Neighbors of the church told the newspaper the church practices serpent handling.

Lt. Ed Sizemore of the Laurel County Sheriff’s Office said friends went with the woman to a local hospital Sunday afternoon, and she was taken to UK.

“She said she was bitten by a snake at her church,” Sizemore said.

Handling reptiles as part of religious services is illegal in Kentucky. Snake handling is a misdemeanor and punishable by a $50 to $100 fine. Police said they had not received reports about snake handling at the church.

Snake handling is based on a passage in the Bible, in the Gospel of Mark, that says a sign of a true believer is the power to “take up serpents” without being harmed.

Church officials could not be reached for comment.