News & Politics

Church Burned After Filing Suit Challenging Coronavirus Restrictions

Major Kelly McMillen/Marshall County Sheriff's Office via AP

A Mississippi church that had filed suit against the city of Holly Springs for its coronavirus restriction orders was burned to the ground in an apparent arson attack, according to authorities.

Investigators from the Marshall County Sheriff’s Office found graffiti in the church parking lot saying, “Bet you stay home now you hypokrites [sic].”

Governor Tate Reeves condemned the attack, saying he was “heartbroken” and “furious.”

Associated Press:

“This is not who we are as a people,” Reeves said. “This is not who we are as a state.”

Pastor Jerry Waldrop said he and other church leaders have no idea who might have set the fire or left the graffiti.

“No enemies that we know of,” Waldrop said. “We don’t know anyone that we even think could be capable of doing something like this.”

I can think of a few liberals who have pretty much expressed the same sentiment as the arsonist.

The church sued the city over the way that the local police enforced the social distancing regulation.

The church sued the city of Holly Springs in April, alleging police officers had disrupted a church Bible study and Easter service. Holly Springs City Attorney Shirley Byers said nearly 40 worshipers inside the church building were not practicing social distancing on April 10 when a violation citation was issued for the church.

Churchgoers practiced social distancing while indoors and only held indoor services when bad weather would not allow them to gather outside, the lawsuit said. Byers said the city amended its local order in late April to allow for drive-thru church services.

Governors who have played hardball with worship services could have learned a little something from Reeves, who refused to shutter the entire state and had sensible recommendations to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The governor’s safer-at-home order, which is set to expire Monday, allows churches to operate as essential businesses, but it limits the size of indoor gatherings. The Republican governor has also asked pastors to follow public health recommendations on social distancing and other practices to mitigate the spread of the virus. Reeves issued guidelines this week for places of worship to restart services inside their buildings.

Meanwhile. Trump has declared houses of worship essential and wants congregations reopened now.

Politico:

Speaking at a previously unannounced news briefing at the White House, the president revealed that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was “issuing guidance for communities of faith,” and declared “houses of worship, churches, synagogues and mosques” to be “essential places that provide essential services.”

“Some governors have deemed liquor stores and abortion clinics as essential, but have left out churches and other houses of worship,” Trump told reporters. “It’s not right. So, I’m correcting this injustice and calling houses of worship essential.”

Unfortunately, this is a local matter and the president’s words, while no doubt welcomed by people of faith, carry little weight — especially in states run by governors who have been hostile worship services of any kind, including drive-up services in which people stayed in their cars.

People will generally practice social distancing when it’s necessary, but fudging a little when going to church is to be expected. Preferably, authorities will leave it up to the individual churches and worshipers to police social distancing.

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An earlier version of this article misidentified the state where the attack took place.