State Watch

Arson suspected in destruction of Mississippi church that was suing over coronavirus restrictions

Officials say arson is expected after a Wednesday fire destroyed a Mississippi church whose pastor previously sued the city of Holly Springs over coronavirus restrictions.

Investigators from the Marshall County Sheriff’s Office said graffiti in the parking lot read “Bet you stay home now you hypokrites,” when they arrived on the scene at First Pentecostal Church, according to The Associated Press.

“We’ve kind of racked our brains and we have no idea” who could be responsible, said Jerry Waldrop, the pastor of the church. “No enemies that we know of. We don’t know anyone that we even think could be capable of doing something like this.”

Waldrop sued the city in April, saying police disrupted an Easter church service and Bible study.

City Attorney Shirley Byers said the church had violated quarantine rules by gathering in a group of nearly 40.

Waldrop argued the parishioners had been practicing social distancing inside and had only congregated indoors when weather left no other option.

Gov. Tate Reeves’s (R) statewide restrictions have treated churches as essential services and allowed them to remain open, but the city’s rules were more stringent. In late April, it amended its order to allow drive-thru church services, according to the AP.

Byers said Waldrop’s lawsuit has not yet been served.

Reeves, in a tweet Thursday, said he was “heartbroken and furious,” adding “What is this pandemic doing to us? We need prayer for this country.”

Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.), whose district is in the southeastern corner of the state, tweeted “My prayers are with this congregation of First Pentecostal Church as they seek answers on who was responsible for this unnecessary arson and begin the rebuilding process.”

Tags Coronavirus Mississippi Social distancing Steven Palazzo The Associated Press

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