A church burning in northern Mississippi this week is under investigation for arson following a spray-painted message at the scene that apparently criticized the church’s disobedience to coronavirus restrictions.
The First Pentecostal Church filed the city of Holly Springs, Miss., About an hour southeast of Memphis, arguing that ordering them to remain in this house violated the church’s right to free speech and interfere on the ability of its members to worship.
After firefighters fired on the first Wednesday, police saw, “Bet at home today your hypocrits,” painted on the ground near the church doors, Maj said. Kelly McMillen of the Marshall County Sheriff’s Department.
Gov. Tate Reeves of Mississippi said he was “heartfelt and angry” about the fire.
Major McMillen said police found a can of white spray paint and a flashlight at the scene. He said no suspects were identified, but investigators, including those from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and potentially the F.B.I., would be at the scene Friday.
“We will probably be up until dark tomorrow night because we will need each and every piece of it,” he said.
An attorney for the church in the lawsuit said the police cited Mr. Waldrop last Christmas for holding a service in violation of city law, and later closed a Bible study.
The judge refused to block the city-to-house order, as gathered by the church requested, and noted that the city was, in a subsequent executive order, allowed for drive-in services to the church.
Arguments about whether religious services can be made in private have been controversial in recent weeks.
Some churches in Minnesota this week They said they would continue services in violation of the governor’s orders. This was followed by a federal judge’s decision in North Carolina allowing internal religious assemblies after the governor said they were banned more. And five attorneys with the Justice Department said in a letter to California on Tuesday that state restrictions to combat the virus have been discriminated against by religious institutions.
Major McMillen said the fire hit Holly Springs, a city of fewer than 8,000 people.
“Hopefully, with the help of the Lord,” he said, “we will get to it as quickly as possible.”