By MARK HANRAHAN, ABC News
(WASHINGTON) — Cards which were being offered for sale online purporting to exempt the bearer from ordinances requiring face coverings to be worn in public are fraudulent, according to Department of Justice officials.
The cards, which for the moment are no longer available for purchase, say “wearing a face mask poses a mental and/or physical risk to me. Under the Americans with Disability [sic] act, I am not required to disclose my condition to you.”
The card also carries a warning that violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act could be met with “steep penalties,” including fines of $75,000 or $150,000.
The cards feature a Department of Justice logo and a logo incorporating a bald eagle for the group that produced them, the Freedom to Breathe Agency.
The cards also warn: “Denying access to your business/organization will be also [be] reported to FTBA for further actions.”
“Do not be fooled by the chicanery and misappropriation of the DOJ eagle,” U.S. Attorney Matthew G.T. Martin of the Middle District of North Carolina said in a statement. “These cards do not carry the force of law. The ‘Freedom to Breathe Agency,’ or ‘FTBA,’ is not a government agency.”
FTBA’s Wix website and Facebook group page have been taken down. A new, private Facebook group was created last week, and now has over 400 members.
The FTBA’s communications team said the cards were as “an educational tool” to help people “understand their legal and human rights so they can stand up to the unlawful, unscientific and unconstitutional mandates,” in an email to the New York Times.
The group’s founder, Lenka Koloma, advertised versions of the cards which did not feature the Department of Justice logo on her personal Facebook page. Her post advertising the cards was flagged as false information by the social media giant’s fact checkers. Her personal website also features videos on how to deal with “face mask shaming.”
ABC News has reached out to the FTBA for comment.
Face masks have been a flashpoint for conflict during the coronavirus outbreak, with a string of violent encounters — including the murder of a store security guard — tied to confrontations over the coverings.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people wear cloth face coverings in public settings, especially when other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.
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