'Snake Salvation' Death Police Chief Won't Enforce Snake Law

2/17/2014 6:00 PM PST

"Snake Salvation" pastor Jamie Coots was breaking the law when he was bit by a deadly rattlesnake during church services ... but the police chief tells TMZ ... he's doing the Christian thing by turning the other cheek.

Middlesboro Police Chief Jeffrey Sharpe concedes a Kentucky law makes it illegal to handle or display reptiles in religious services. But Sharpe says he doesn't care what the law says ... as far as he's concerned the government doesn't have any business meddling in religious affairs.

Sharpe says he will NOT enforce the law ... period.

And the Chief adds he's been to the church when the snakes are unveiled, and he says the kids in the congregation are not in any danger. The people who handle the snakes are all adults, and they assume the risk -- he says it's just a personal choice.