By now, several months into the coronavirus pandemic, we all know the drill: wear your mask in public, keep your distance, wash your hands regularly and well and generally try to be decent and respectful to your fellow humans out in public (who may or may not have different risk factors or loved ones at different risk levels). So you can understand why, based on the understanding of our “don’t want to get anyone else sick” social contract, it’s a real disheartening bummer to see people desperately trying to find ways to not have to abide by these fairly simple guidelines.
The most recent (and probably one of the most egregious examples of it) so far is in recent reports of people producing so-called “exemption” cards claiming that the individual is not legally obligated to wear a mask or to disclose why they aren’t wearing one (and that they can’t be asked about it(, according to the Freedom to Breathe Agency (the group allegedly selling these cards that, to be clear, is not a real government agency).
A few images of the cards have begun circulating on the Internet showing them featuring an illegitimate DOJ seal and a number (which is a real DOJ number) for reporting ADA violations. The cards read “Wearing a face mask posses a mental and/or physical risk to me. Under the Americans with Disability Act (ADA), I am not required to disclose my condition to you.”
Yes, it does misspell the word “poses” and uses an incorrect name to refer to the Americans with Disabilities Act and threatens individuals and businesses that ask about the lack of mask usage: “If found in violation of the ADA you could face steep penalties,” the fake card reads. “Organizations and businesses can be fined up to $75,000 for your first violation and $150,000 for any subsequent violations. Denying access to your business/organization will be also reported to FTBA for further actions.”
HEADS UP fellow businesses…. This is not a thing. This is what happens when Arts and Crafts Karens have too much time on their hands. We will throw it in the trash and send them on their way. pic.twitter.com/VKACSA3pRU
— Lance Bass (@LanceBass) June 24, 2020
The DOJ issued a statement after becoming aware of these cards floating around, noting that they are fake (duh) and that businesses and individuals shouldn’t rely on the cards (or the very not real agency they claim to represent) for reliable information.
“The Department of Justice has been made aware of postings or flyers on the internet regarding the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the use of face masks due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many of which include the Department of Justice’s seal. These postings were not issued by the Department and are not endorsed by the Department. The Department urges the public not to rely on the information contained in these postings and to visit ADA.gov for ADA information issued by the Department.”
In Noth Carolina, U.S. Attorney Matthew G.T. Martin released a statement about the fraudulent cards, urging people to be careful and critical when presented with them.
“Do not be fooled by the chicanery and misappropriation of the DOJ eagle,” Martin said. “These cards do not carry the force of law. The ‘Freedom to Breathe Agency,’ or ‘FTBA,’ is not a government agency.”
So if someone presents you with this DIY Get-Out-of-Community-Responsibility Card, be aware that it’s totally bunk. And because it is simple and respectful to your fellow community members, continue to wear your mask, please!