Mississippi Church Targeted In Arson Attack After Defying Stay-At-Home Order

An image showing First Pentecostal Church in Holly Springs Mississippi after an unknown person set it

An image showing First Pentecostal Church in Holly Springs Mississippi after an unknown person set it

The church sued the city of Holly Springs in April, alleging police officers had disrupted a church Bible study and Easter service.

Church members also protested the city's restriction on in-person services in April, according to WATN Local 24. Holly Springs City Attorney Shirley Byers said almost 40 worshipers inside the church building were not practicing social distancing on April 10 when a violation citation was issued for the church.

"We're going keep the faith, we're going keep doing what we've always done", said Pastor Jerry Waldrop.

A MS church burned in an apparent act of arson is the same church at the center of a legal battle with the city over safer-at-home orders issued in response to the coronavirus, according to officials.

When firefighters responded to the blaze at the First Pentecostal Church of Holly Springs on Wednesday (May 20), they found the words "Bet you stay home now you hypokrites" sprayed painted on the parking lot of the church. "No enemies that we know of".

The church was "burned to the ground" and had been trying to open services, Reeves tweeted Thursday.

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. Mississippi's "safer-at-home" order never prohibited religious services, and Reeves permitted houses of worship to welcome large groups if social distancing was in place.

At the end of March, the state had included churches in its list of essential businesses, however the city of Holly Springs did not.

Stephen Crampton, attorney for the church, told WMC that he has no doubt that the fire was connected to the lawsuit.

"It is very clear local municipalities can have guidelines that are more strict (sic) than the governor's guidelines, but they cannot have guidelines that directly conflict with what we have put in place", Reeves stated at a news conference Wednesday.

'Our most honest prayers are with the people of this church and their pastor. The fire remains under investigation.

Marshall County Sheriff Department criminal investigator Kelly McMillen told the outlet that authorities believe the fire was an arson based on evidence located around the scene and a nearby hill.

"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.

More than 11500 Mainers filed for unemployment last week