- A Mississippi church was burned to the ground not long after drawing backlash for violating a stay-at-home order and holding in-person services.
- The church had sued the city of Holly Springs over the measures, but a judge accused the church of having “insufficient respect for the enormity of the health crisis which the COVID-19 pandemic presents.”
- Local authorities believe the church fire was caused by arson.
- A disturbing message was spray-painted on the ground in front of the church: “Bet you stay home now you hypokrites.”
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A Mississippi church that drew ire for violating the city of Holly Springs’ stay-at-home order was burnt down early Wednesday morning, and a disturbing message was spray-painted on the ground: “Bet you stay home now you hypokrites.”
The Marshall County Sheriff Department told local media outlets that investigators believe the incident was arson, due to evidence found at the scene.
The First Pentecostal Church was at the centre of a lawsuit over lockdown measures aim at reducing the spread of the coronavirus. Authorities cited the church’s pastor, Jerry Waldrop, for holding an in-person service on Easter despite the city’s order against doing so, according to The New York Times.
The church sued the city, but a judge refused to block the stay-at-home order, noting that Holly Springs had permitted churches to conduct drive-in services, which would allow for social distancing.
Judge Michael Mills said in his opinion that the church was “determined to push the legal envelope even further” and 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.”
Mills continued: “Is avoiding the inconveniences associated with drive-in church services worth risking the very lives of their fellow congregants and other members of the community? Unfortunately, [the church] and its members appear to have decided that the answer to this question is ‘yes.'”
Some faith leaders across the country are pushing states to let them reopen to hold in-person services, even though scientific evidence shows they’re super-spreader hotspots. President Donald Trump on Friday declared places of worship essential, and said he would override governors if they disagree with him, even though he probably doesn’t have the authority to do so.
In the wake of the suspected arson, Waldrop told Fox 13 Memphis that the loss of the building wouldn’t stop the churchgoers from worshipping together.
“We are going to keep the faith, and we’re going to keep doing what we have always done, and maybe not on this location,” he said. “I’ll get with our faithful people, and maybe we’ll rent a building or whatever we need to do for the time being.