A fire at First Pentecostal Church in Holly Springs, MS is being investigated as arson by local law enforcement. The fire began before 2 am on Wednesday, and by the time first responders were able to get to the scene the conflagration had enveloped the entire building. Firefighters were able to put out the flames, but the church has been destroyed.
The pastor of the church, Jerry Waldrop, was asked about the incident by local news agency WLBT. “We’ve tacked our brains and we have no idea,” Waldrop said. “No enemies that we know of. We don’t know anyone that we even think could be capable of doing something like this.”
A motivation may be indicated by graffiti found outside the church by investigators: “Bet you stay home now you hypokrits (sic).”
The First Pentecostal Church had been holding services regularly, in violation of a city order against such activity. While they claimed to be attempting to hold them outside when possible, indoor services were stopped by local police on Easter Sunday and then again during a mid-week bible study. The Church had recently filed a lawsuit against the city seeking a restraining order from further police action.
The lawsuit would have had the backing of the Governor’s stay-at-home order, which specifically included churches as essential businesses. The conflict has been the center of statewide controversy.
Mississippi has verified more than 11,000 cases of coronavirus infection since the beginning of the pandemic, with 554 deaths. These statistics may explain some animus toward a community group which was regularly cited for ignoring social distancing rules but it in no way excuses destruction of property, particularly a house of religion.