Church that sued over Mississippi’s virus restrictions burns to the ground

National

Graffiti found at the scene read 'Bet you stay home now you hypokrites.'

HOLLY SPRINGS, Miss. — Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves is condemning a church fire that’s being investigated as an arson.

First Pentecostal Church in Holly Springs burned Wednesday, about a month after it filed a lawsuit challenging city restrictions on gatherings amid the coronavirus pandemic.

 Investigators found graffiti at the burned church that read, “Bet you stay home now you hypokrites.”

The graffiti also contains an atomic symbol with an “A” inside, according to the New York Times, which is sometimes used as a logo for atheist groups.

Maj. Kelly McMillen of the Marshall County Sheriff’s Department told the New York Times that firefighters found a can of white spray paint and a flashlight. He said investigators, including some from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives would examine the scene.

The governor said Thursday that the situation at the church, which is about an hour southeast of Memphis, makes him furious.

The church’s lawsuit alleges police officers disrupted a church Bible study and Easter service.

A city attorney said nearly 40 worshipers weren’t practicing social distancing inside the church when a violation citation was issued. 

The judge in the church’s lawsuit wrote that he feared that the church was “proceeding in an excessively reckless and cavalier manner and with insufficient respect for the enormity of the health crisis which the Covid-19 pandemic presents,” and declined to block the city’s order, according to the Times.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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