A Mississippi church suing the city over coronavirus restrictions was burned in a suspected arson fire.
First Pentecostal Church in Holly Springs, Mississippi was burned down Wednesday. The attackers left graffiti that said “Bet you stay home now you hypokrites.”
The church had filed a lawsuit against the city of Holly Springs, but pastor Jerry Waldrop said he did not believe the church had any enemies, according to The Associated Press. (RELATED: How The Coronavirus Is Infecting Americans’ Civil Liberties)
“We’ve kind of racked our brains and we have no idea,” Waldrop said. “No enemies that we know of. We don’t know anyone that we even think could be capable of doing something like this.”
Republican Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves said Thursday he was “heartbroken and furious” over the alleged arson.
“I am heartbroken and furious. In Mississippi, a church was just burned to the ground. They had been trying to open services,” Reeves tweeted. “What is this pandemic doing to us? We need prayer for this country.”
I am heartbroken and furious. In Mississippi, a church was just burned to the ground. They had been trying to open services. There was graffiti on the lot which read “Bet you stay home now you hypocrites.”
What is this pandemic doing to us? We need prayer for this country. pic.twitter.com/TdGHqs9evv
— Tate Reeves (@tatereeves) May 21, 2020
Churches have been closed throughout the pandemic as governors across the country declared them “non-essential.” An Easter service at a Baptist church in Greenville, Mississippi was broken up by police officers last month, with the officers telling the church’s pastor that “your rights have been suspended by the government.”
Attorney General Bill Barr sent a memo to U.S. attorneys late last month, ordering them to be on the “lookout” for First Amendment violations, saying that the pandemic does not give state officials the authority to crack down on religious freedom.
“As the Department of Justice explained recently in guidance to states and localities taking steps to battle the pandemic, even in times of emergency, when reasonable and temporary restrictions are placed on rights, the First Amendment and federal statutory law prohibit discrimination against religious institutions and religious believers,” Barr wrote.