THIS WEEK IN GOD…. First up from the God Machine this week is a new push from evangelical religious groups to kill health care reform.

Conservative Christian groups on Wednesday (Aug. 26) ramped up opposition to health care reform, saying the current system “has problems” but “it is working.”

Members of the newly formed Freedom Federation, comprised of some of the largest conservative religious groups in the country, say they oppose taxpayer-supported abortion, rationed health care for the elderly and government control of personal health decisions.

Mathew Staver, who heads the legal group Liberty Counsel and is dean at Liberty University’s law school, said the group agrees on certain core values.

And nothing, apparently, says “Christian values” to these groups and leaders like opposing the protections health care reform would provide to tens of millions of American families.

The Freedom Federation includes, among others, the American Family Association, the Church of God in Christ, Concerned Women for America, Family Research Council Action, Liberty University and the Traditional Values Coalition. All of the groups, apparently, are led by right-wing activists who interpret the New Testament in a way that seems very hard to understand.

Also from the God Machine this week:

* Rep. Michele Bachmann (R) of Minnesota recently talked about how faith relates to the health care reform debate. She said, for example, that we should “thank God” that Sarah Palin wrote about “death panels.” Bachmann added that conservatives will win the fight to kill reform “on our knees in prayer and fasting.”

* Arizona pastor Steven Anderson prayed publicly for President Obama’s death a day before one of his parishioners brought an assault rifle to a presidential event. It appears that the Secret Service recently chatted with Anderson.

* Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) has “spent more than a tenth of his campaign’s receipts on the church he founded, a tidy tithe totaling $152,777.” While lawmakers routinely set up tax-exempt nonprofits, Rush’s approach “is different because a church is his center of operations and he concentrates on social services. But what his approach has in common with those of other lawmakers is the earmarking of tax dollars — Rush earmarked nearly $700,000 for two related social services entities he helped establish.” (thanks to Tammy for the tip)

* Can atheists adopt a child? An interesting legal dispute is underway in New Jersey. [Update: Oops. Someone alerted me to this story the other day, but I didn’t notice the date. In other words, never mind. For what it’s worth, the atheists won the case — several decades ago.]

* In the wake of 9/11, officials in Kentucky created a state Office of Homeland Security. State lawmakers required that training materials include information that the General Assembly stressed a “dependence on Almighty God as being vital to the security of the Commonwealth.” The same law mandated that the state’s Emergency Operations Center feature a plaque that said “the safety and security of the Commonwealth cannot be achieved apart from reliance upon Almighty God.” This week, Franklin Circuit Judge Thomas Wingate found this unconstitutional.

* And finally, a local church in north Florida encouraged kids to wear shirts to the local public school that read “Islam is of the Devil.” The children were sent home. The Dove World Outreach Center Pastor Terry Jones said spreading the church’s message is more important than education.

Steve Benen

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.