THIS WEEK IN GOD…. First up from the God Machine this week is an unfortunate situation in which public officials with a religious agenda have cost their communities dearly. (thanks to Joanne for the tip)

A federal judge has ordered a pair of southern Kentucky counties to pay $393,798 in attorneys fees stemming from their defense of posting the Ten Commandments in courthouses.

The Lexington Herald-Leader reported that U.S. District Judge Jennifer B. Coffman ruled that Pulaski and McCreary counties must pay the funds to two attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky.

The ACLU of Kentucky successfully challenged the displays in federal court in a legal battle that started a decade ago.

What’s frustrating is that these Kentucky officials had to realize that their efforts to promote Christianity were unconstitutional. But instead of backing down, complying with the law, and leaving religious promotion to houses of worship and private individuals, they pushed forward anyway with a display that endorsed the Christian version of the Ten Commandments, an “In God We Trust” display, and a version of the Congressional Record declaring 1983 as the “Year of the Bible.”

These are two of the poorest counties in Kentucky — they’re already hard pressed to cover county expenses — and now local families are likely going to be stuck paying legal fees because their county officials thought it was their job to promote a faith tradition, even after lawyers explained they couldn’t. They knew this was a likely outcome, but pushed ahead anyway. What a shame.

Also from the God Machine this week:

* Coral Ridge Presbyterian in Fort Lauderdale, one of the nation’s leading megachurches, created and led by D. James Kennedy before his death in 2007, chose the Rev. Tullian Tchividjian as its new leader this week. Tchividjian is perhaps best known as Billy Graham’s grandson.

* The Southern Christian Leadership Conference is planning a campaign this summer in the Mississippi Delta, as part of an effort to “draw attention to the poverty of a region where some Americans still live in homes with dirt floors and brown water flows from their faucets.”

* The debate over the “I Believe” license plates in South Carolina rages on. South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster and Lt. Governor Andre Bauer are doing their part to rally religious right activism on the issue.

* And the Texas State Board of Education, already controversial for its efforts to undermine the state’s science curriculum for religious reasons, sparked a new round of controversy this week when its chairman endorsed a new book that portrays scientists as “atheists,” parents who want their children to learn about evolution as “monsters,” and pastors who accept the science of evolution as “morons.”

Our ideas can save democracy... But we need your help! Donate Now!

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.