Church That Fought Lockdown Is Burned to the Ground

Tate Reeves Twitter

MS investigators found the words "Bet you stay home now you hypokrits" spray-painted on the parking lot of a Holly Springs church that burned down early Wednesday morning, a month after the church had legally challenged the city's stay-at-home orders.

According to the lawsuit, the church managed to conduct its services outside, but in the face of inclement weather, services were moved indoors while maintaining social distancing guidelines.

First Pentecostal Church in Holly Springs burned down Wednesday morning.

"Our most honest prayers are with the people of this church and their pastor", he said.

The Republican governor said during a news conference in Jackson that the fire and the message make him "heartbroken" and "furious". Additionally, the suit notes that police interrupted a mid-week Bible study and the church's Easter service.

After growing frustration with the city's executive orders, the first of which was issued March 23, the church's pastor, Jerry Waldrop, confronted city officials at a demonstration at a local Walmart. "But if this is in fact what it looks like, I want you to know that we're going to do everything in our power to find whomever burned this church down".

Stephen Crampton, senior counsel at the Thomas More Society, a nonprofit law firm representing the church in the lawsuit, said the church's members had been grieving "their inability to gather as a congregation" since the city's order forced the church's closure. We don't know anyone that we even think could be capable of doing something like this'.

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Byers said in an incident April 10 about 35 to 40 congregants were inside the First Pentecostal Church and were not practicing social distancing, which is what led to a citation for violating the local emergency order.

According to the station, investigators found evidence that the fire was intentionally set, including graffiti in the church parking lot that said "Bet you stay home now you hypokrits (sic)".

The church sought a temporary restraining order and permanent injunction so the city couldn't prevent services from taking place.

MS has nearly 12,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 570 deaths, according to the latest figures from the state's department of health.

The church's pastor has said he had no idea who could be behind the fire.

Investigators say numerous parishioners were home or out of town when the fire ripped through the church between 2 and 4 a.m. Wednesday, WMC-TV reported.

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