ST. LOUIS—Chris and Paul Griesedieck know how to crush just about anything.

The brothers and owners of American Pulverizer in St. Louis run the company their great-grandfather started nearly 105 years ago to compress coal for the burgeoning coal mining industry. A century later, the Griesediecks and 150 employees manufacture massive machines with names like jaw crushers and hammermills that pulverize everything from iron clips and water heaters to car engines and wooden pallets. And they still crush plenty of coal.

But these days, the crushers worry about being crushed. The looming threat to the family business doesn’t come from competition. Instead, it comes from the machinery of the federal government.

That’s because the government says the Griesediecks must do something that violates their Christian beliefs: Pay for so-called “emergency contraception” in their health insurance plan for employees. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued the mandate last year as part of the healthcare bill President Barack Obama signed into law in 2010.

The healthcare law requires employers with more than 50 full-time workers to provide insurance to their employees or face fines. The HHS mandate requires employers to provide a range of “preventative services” in those insurance plans, including birth control pills, sterilization, and “emergency contraception” that may act as abortifacients.

Companies that don’t offer the drugs face crushing fines: $100 a day per employee. For the Griesediecks and their 150 workers, those fines could soar to over $5 million a year.

For a company with 13,000 employees like craft retailer Hobby Lobby—another Christian-owned corporation opposing the mandate—the burden is even heavier: Fines could reach $1.3 million a day

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