Church That Defied Coronavirus Restrictions Is Burned to Ground

Church That Defied Coronavirus Restrictions Is Burned to Ground


The burning of a church in northern Mississippi this week is being investigated as arson because of a spray-painted message at the scene that seemed to criticize the church’s defiance of coronavirus restrictions.

First Pentecostal Church had sued the city of Holly Springs, Miss., which is about an hour southeast of Memphis, arguing that its stay-at-home order had violated the church’s right to free speech and interfered with its members’ ability to worship.

After firefighters put out the blaze early Wednesday, the police found a message, “Bet you stay home now you hypokrits,” spray-painted on the ground near the church’s doors, according to Maj. Kelly McMillen of the Marshall County Sheriff’s Department.

Gov. Tate Reeves of Mississippi said on Twitter that he was “heartbroken and furious” about the fire.

Major McMillen said the police had found a can of white spray paint and a flashlight at the scene. He said that no suspects had been identified, but that investigators, including from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and potentially the F.B.I., would be going through the scene on Friday.

“We’ll probably be there till dark tomorrow night because we’re going to have to go through each and every piece of it,” he said.

A lawyer for the church said in the lawsuit that the police had cited Mr. Waldrop on Easter for holding a service in violation of the city’s order, and had later shut down a Bible study.



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