“Jeffrey Epstein didn’t kill himself” has gone from a conspiracy theory, to a political statement, to a popular meme on social media — and now First Church of God in Marseilles is sharing it.
They are not making any political statement, the pastor said.
The sign in front of their church at 2895 E. 24th Road reads “Jesus willingly died for you … unlike Epstein, who didn’t kill himself.”
"I was just sitting there last week and I knew I had to do our message (this Sunday)," said Joseph Galvan, who put up the sign. "I'm preaching about the knee-jerk reactions Christians have to our culture and what we can do to be better."
The photo of the sign has been posted to the church's Facebook page, garnering more than 50 shares on their Facebook page as of Monday morning and thousands of likes as its been posted on other accounts.
"The Epstein joke, it mostly brings things up in a bipartisan way," Galvan said. "It doesn't mean it criminalizes the Clintons or anyone else. I like how people are using memes to bring awareness of that."
Galvan said the message is a way to bring awareness to an incident that might get forgotten otherwise as well as create hype around the church locally.
"It's OK to laugh; it's OK to not take yourself too seriously," Galvan said. "How sad of an indictment would this be if we couldn't laugh at this? It's not necessarily a laughing matter but sometimes the best way to say the truth is with a little laughter or a smile."
It's somewhat common for churches to draw attention or try to spark attendance through a clever message on their display sign, but this is First Church of God's first attempt at it.
“We’re just tagging off the meme,” said Pastor Brian Hefner. “I actually didn’t do this, but (a church member) Joseph (Galvan) asked my permission. It gave us a chance to expose people to Jesus and who he is, getting people to ask questions.”
“It’s been very popular and it’s got our name right on the sign. I didn’t think it’d get out there like that.”
Epstein was a financier and philanthropist most well-known for his connections to President Donald Trump, former President Bill Clinton, Prince Andrew and many other prominent public figures; he was first arrested in 2006 after authorities said he had paid a 14-year-old girl for sexual favors.
He was arrested again on July 6 for a complaint of possession of child pornography but charges were dropped after he was found dead July 23 in his jail cell.
The conspiracy theory and memes stemmed from there. The death is viewed as suspicious because of the nature of it and his connection to many powerful public figures.