updated 11/8/2006 1:59:39 AM ET 2006-11-08T06:59:39

A woman who was bitten by a snake at a church that neighbors say practices serpent-handling died of her wounds hours later, a newspaper reported.

Linda Long, 48, was bitten Sunday at East London Holiness Church, where neighbors said the reptiles are handled as part of religious services, The Lexington Herald-Leader reported Tuesday.

Long died at University of Kentucky Medical Center about four hours after being bitten, authorities told the newspaper.

"She said she was bitten by a snake at her church," said Lt. Ed Sizemore of the Laurel County Sheriff's Office.

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 any reports of snake handling at the church.

Snake handling is based on a passage in the Bible 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.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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