On Wednesday morning, a Mississippi church was burned to the ground.
First Pentecostal Church in Holly Springs, Mississippi was engulfed in flames on Wednesday in what is believed to be an act of arson, Fox 13 reports.
Investigators noted that the church had been spray painted with graffiti following an explosion towards the front of the building.
Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves expressed that he was distraught over the incident.
“I am heartbroken and furious. In Mississippi, a church was just burned to the ground. They had been trying to open services,” Reeves tweeted Thursday.
“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,” he wrote.
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.”— Tate Reeves (@tatereeves) May 21, 2020
What is this pandemic doing to us? We need prayer for this country. pic.twitter.com/TdGHqs9evv
Thomas More Society senior counsel and lawyer for the church Stephen Crampton told Fox News on Thursday that the church parking lot had been spray-painted with the following message: “I bet you stay home now you hypokrits.”
Prior to the incident, the church had been in a legal battle with local authorities over lockdown measures.
According to WLBT, the city of Holly Springs does not consider churches essential businesses, despite the state’s governor declaring they are.
“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.
Pastor Jerry Waldrop, who has been leading First Pentecostal for 31 years, filed a lawsuit against the city of Holly Springs back in April.
The lawsuit came after Holly Springs issued a citation to the pastor for holding church services indoors. At the time, only drive-thru services were permitted. Additionally, the suit notes that police interrupted a mid-week Bible study and the church’s Easter service.
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.
A temporary restraining order has also been included in the complaint to keep the city from stopping the church from holding indoor services.
Crampton noted in a statement that there is “a growing hostility towards churches” such as First Pentecostal who are pushing back against lockdown orders, Fox News reports.
"We're in a time where I don't think it's any secret that there's a growing hostility toward churches, across the board," Crampton said. "And now, here are churches like First Pentecostal that are sort of stirring up the waters by being outspoken and somewhat firm about seeking to protect their Constitutional rights."
"They've had bad comments [directed at them] on social media,” he added. “There is just a segment that takes issue with the church standing up, and the church just being the church."
While Pastor Waldrop remains unsure as to who started the church fire, he asserted that the church will be rebuilt.
“We have the means, so whatever it takes, that's what we will do,” Waldrop said, according to Fox 13. “We have a tight group that's been faithful, so whatever means are necessary, that is what I will do,” he concluded.
Photo courtesy: Tate Reeves Twitter
Milton Quintanilla is a freelance writer. Visit his blog Blessed Are The Forgiven.