A church in Mississippi burned to the ground, about a month after its pastor filed a lawsuit challenging city officials on gathering restrictions amid the coronavirus outbreak.
First Pentecostal Church in Holly Springs, Mississippi, burned down Wednesday morning. When investigators from the Marshall County Sheriff’s Office got to the scene, they reportedly found graffiti in the church parking lot that read: “Bet you stay home now you hypokrites.”
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves on Thursday condemned the fire, which is being investigated as an arson.
“This is not who we are as a people,” Reeves said during a news conference in Jackson. “This is not who we are as a state.”
Pastor Jerry Waldrop said he and other church leaders have no idea who might have set the fire or left the graffiti.
“No enemies that we know of,” Waldrop said. “We don’t know anyone that we even think could be capable of doing something like this.”
The church sued the city of Holly Springs in April, alleging police officers had disrupted a church Bible study and Easter service. Holly Springs City Attorney Shirley Byers said nearly 40 worshipers inside the church building were not practicing social distancing on April 10 when a violation citation was issued for the church.