Authorities investigate Miss. church fire as possible arson

Tanya Simon
May 23, 2020

Gov. Tate Reeves of MS said on Twitter that he was "heartbroken and furious" about the fire.

The investigation into the incident is still ongoing, and anyone who may have information that leads to the arrest or conviction of those responsible is encouraged to contact authorities, who have offered a reward.

The burning of a church in northern MS this week is being investigated as arson because of a spray-painted message at the scene that seemed to criticize the church's defiance of coronavirus restrictions.

Reeves also mentioned the fire during a Thursday news conference and promised the state would do "everything in our power to find whomever burned this church down".

First Pentecostal Church had sued the city of Holly Springs, which is about an hour southeast of Memphis, Tennessee, arguing that its stay-at-home order had violated the church's right to free speech and interfered with its members' ability to worship.

"We'll probably be there till dark tomorrow night because we're going to have to go through each and every piece of it", he said. He said that no suspects had been identified but that investigators - including from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and potentially the FBI - would be going through the scene Friday.

"No enemies that we know of", Waldrop said. Investigators said they found a menacing message spray-painted on the pavement of the church's parking lot, leading them to believe the fire was intentionally set.

DeSantis vs. Cuomo and Britain's State Religion
While the Republican governor emphasized that children are much less likely to face serious consequences from COVID-19, the state now has a growing number of children with " multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children ", or MIS-C.

A disturbing message was spray-painted on the ground in front of the church: "Bet you stay home now you hypokrites".

Waldrop had filed a lawsuit against the city of Holly Springs last month, alleging police officers had disrupted a church bible study and Easter service. The city said almost 40 parishioners inside the church were not practicing social distancing on April 10 when a citation was issued.

Byers said the city amended its local order in late April to allow for drive-thru church services.

The lawsuit says social distancing is practiced inside and that services are held indoor only when weather prohibits outdoor services. "They have been grieving the inability to gather as a congregation since the COVID-19 pandemic stay home orders forced the closure of their church home, and now they must grieve the loss of this spiritual home, their place of worship." said Stephen Crampton, Senior Counsel at the Thomas More Society. He has, nonetheless, urged churches to make use of choices such as online and also auto park solutions.

Earlier this week, Reeves released guidance on resuming in-person faith gatherings, which include cleaning and disinfection, holding separate services for vulnerable populations and creating a 6-foot buffer between household groups.

Holly Springs is a neighborhood of around 7, 600 in the north component of MS, near the Tennessee boundary. On Tuesday, Reeves signed an order allowing places that include tattoo parlors and dance studios to reopen.

Other reports by

Discuss This Article

FOLLOW OUR NEWSPAPER