An explosion and fire at the First Pentecostal Church of Holly Springs in Mississippi is being investigated as arson after messages found spray-painted on the church's parking lot referenced its ongoing legal battle to remain open despite state coronavirus lockdown orders.
According to attorneys from the Thomas More Society, one of the messages read, "I Bet you stay home now you hypokrits."
Tom Dees from Fox 13 Memphis reports:
"First Pentacostal Church Holly Springs. Arson is Suspected. Investigators say the church was spray painted with graffiti and set on fire. There was a major explosion in the back of the church that blew out the front."
The First Pentecostal Church of Holly Springs filed a lawsuit last month against local authorities who they say have harassed the church for remaining open — even though Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves designated churches as "essential" businesses, and their parishioners have been dutifully following social distancing guidelines.
According to the complaint filed by the church's minister, Jerry Waldrop, police officers have disrupted everything from mid-week Bible studies to the church's Easter service.
The church's lawyer, Stephen Crampton, believes the church was being targeted for its outspoken views:
"We're in a time where I don't think it's any secret that there's a growing hostility toward churches, across the board. And now, here are churches like First Pentecostal that are sort of stirring up the waters by being outspoken and somewhat firm about seeking to protect their Constitutional rights."