The cards for sale that claim to exempt people from wearing masks during the coronavirus pandemic are fraudulent, federal officials said.
The cards, with a red, white, and blue eagle logo and about the size of a business card, say the wearer is exempt from ordinances requiring them to wear masks in public.
“Using a face mask carries a mental and / or physical risk for me. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), I am not required to disclose my condition to you, “says the card, which spells” poses “incorrectly and incorrectly names the Americans with Disabilities Act.
There is also a caveat that companies or organizations may be reported to the Freedom to Breathe Agency, the group behind the cards. A version of the cards featured the Justice Department logo and listed a legitimate phone number where complaints can be filed about violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The cards were sold online in boxes of at least 500 for $ 49.99.
But such cards and flyers were not issued or endorsed by the Justice Department, federal officials said.
“Don’t be fooled by the Justice Department’s ruse and misappropriation of the eagle,” said Matthew GT Martin, the United States attorney for the Middle District of North Carolina. “These cards do not have the force of law. The ‘Freedom to Breathe Agency’ or ‘FTBA’ is not a government agency. ”
Mr. Martin’s statement made no mention of the charges stemming from the cards, and the group that distributed them said that no legal action had been taken against her.
The cards were created in response to complaints, the group’s communication team said in an email, and as “an educational tool” to help people “understand their legal and human rights so they can deal with illegal mandates. , non-scientific and unconstitutional. “
The communications team declined to provide a named spokesperson, citing concerns about “the safety of our key members.” The group said it had received hundreds of reports and continued to receive them daily from people who did not want to wear masks and had therefore been “denied access, discriminated against, degraded, intimidated and coerced.”
“These are people who have medical conditions where wearing a face mask puts them at significant health risk,” the group added.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends using cloth face covers in public places to help reduce the spread of the coronavirus. The footage from an episode on Friday at a Trader Joe’s store in California was the latest case of consumers resisting mask policies in stores.
Freedom to Breathe Agency founder Lenka Koloma advertised the cards on her Facebook page, and they were sold on a site created through the Shopify trading platform. The site was not available on Sunday afternoon.
“Shopify takes concerns about the goods and services made available by merchants on our platform very seriously,” said a company spokeswoman, Sheryl So. “We have multiple teams that handle potential violations of the Shopify Acceptable Use Policy. including malicious and deceptive practices. “
The original Facebook group and a website on the Wix platform for the Freedom to Breathe Agency were also removed. Facebook and Wix could not be immediately contacted on Sunday.
The group behind the cards said they had requested support and information from Wix and that they had experienced “illegal and unconstitutional censorship by Facebook.”
Facebook said Wednesday that it planned to combat misinformation about the coronavirus, connecting people with credible information in its applications, investing $ 100 million in the news industry and supporting fact-checkers.