The First Pentecostal Church in Holly Springs, Mississippi, was found engulfed in flames Wednesday morning, Marshall County Sheriff’s Maj. Kelly McMillian told CNN.
In addition, investigators found graffiti on the lot that read, “Bet you stay home now you hypokrits [sic],” CNN affiliate WMC reported.
Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves condemned the church fire.
“I am heartbroken and furious,” he wrote in a tweet on Thursday. “In Mississippi, a church was just burned to the ground. They had been trying to open services.”
“What is this pandemic doing to us?” he added. “We need prayer for this country.”
The church, located in northern Mississippi near the Tennessee border, filed a lawsuit against the city of Holly Springs last month alleging that police disrupted Easter Service and Bible study.
In the complaint, First Pentecostal Church asked for a temporary restraining order to keep the city from preventing services indoors as part of enforcement of its stay-at-home order.
Stephen Crampton, senior counsel at the Thomas More Society, a pro-life law firm, said the church was a total loss. He added that the church had been allowed to meet for drive-in services a few weeks ago, though the legal team was “continuing to pursue the right to meet in person.”
Investigators have not said whether they believe the fire is in relation to the lawsuit, which generated a lot of attention for the church in recent weeks.
The Marshall County Sheriff’s Office is offering a reward for any information leading to an arrest in this case.
Mississippi has seen a total of 12,222 Covid-19 cases and 580 deaths as of May 20, according to the state’s website.
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