Religion Briefs

Preacher gets caught with poisonous snakes

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – A snake-handling Kentucky preacher has gone back home from a Tennessee courtroom without his venomous serpents.

The Knoxville News Sentinel reported Jamie Coots pleaded guilty Monday to illegally having poisonous snakes that were confiscated after a traffic stop in Knox County, Tenn., on Jan. 31.

Prosecutors agreed to drop charges of transporting the snakes, and wildlife officials agreed to give back the boxes Coots was using to carry the snakes from Alabama to his Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus Name Church in Middlesboro, Ky.

Coots will be on unsupervised probation for a year.

Coots’ lawyer, Christopher H. Jones of Chattanooga, said Coots wanted to avoid going through a long legal process but still believes Tennessee’s law barring him from transporting the snakes on his way back to Middlesboro is unconstitutional.

“He legally acquired them in Alabama,” Jones said. “He legally possessed them in Kentucky.”

Australian Muslims lose free-speech appeal

CANBERRA, Australia – Australia’s highest court narrowly rejected the case of two Muslim activists who argued they had a constitutional free-speech right to send offensive letters to families of Australian soldiers killed in Afghanistan.

Iranian-born Man Horan Monis, a Sydney cleric also known as Sheik Haron, was charged with 12 counts of using a postal service in an offensive way and one count of using a postal service in a harassing way over three years until 2009. Amirah Droudis was charged with aiding and abetting the offenses. They face potential maximum prison sentences of 26 years and 16 years, respectively, if convicted.

The six judges of the High Court split about whether the charges were compatible with Australians’ right to free speech. When the nation’s highest court is tied, an appeal is dismissed and the lower court decision stands.

That sends the charges to a lower court where they will be heard on a date to be set.

Associated Press