A church in MS that burned down in what authorities say was an arson attack had previously defied the city's stay-at-home order and was suing officials over lockdown measures.
According to WMC, Holly Springs City Attorney Shirley Byers said the church was issued a citation for violating the city's emergency order because up to 40 people were inside the church on April 10 and were not social distancing.
After growing frustration with the city's executive orders, the first of which was issued March 23, the church's pastor, Jerry Waldrop, confronted city officials at a demonstration at a local Walmart.
Tate Reeves said he's "heartbroken and furious" after a fire this week at a church that has challenged coronavirus restrictions.
"There was graffiti on the lot which read 'Bet you stay home now you hypocrites.' What is this pandemic doing to us?" 'No enemies that we know of.
Besides, the lawsuit said, services had been a drive-through event - which are now legal in Holly Springs - and only moved indoors because of bad weather.
Authorities are offering a reward for tips on the arson investigation.
Stephen Crampton, an attorney for the church, called the city's action an "outrageous violation of these parishioners' rights".
"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.
As of the end of the business day Wednesday, Mississippi had confirmed 12,222 COVID-19 cases and had had 580 deaths, according to the state health department.
"It is very clear local municipalities can have guidelines that are more strict than the governor's guidelines, but they cannot have guidelines that directly conflict with what we have put in place", Reeves said.
"Due to the threats and the citation of Pastor Waldrop, the church members were fearful of holding services on Sunday and exercising their constitutionally protected rights", Crampton told Fox News.
Local state and federal agencies are investigating the fire.