Group behind fraudulent 'face mask exempt' cards pledges to keep distributing them

Tuesday, June 30, 2020
Group behind fraudulent 'face mask exempt' cards pledges to keep distributing them
A 'Face mask exempt' card, which features a Department of Justice logo, is seen in a DoJ handout image. Federal officials recently flagged that the group behind the cards are not a government agency and described the cards as fraudulent.

A group which circulated so-called "Face Mask Exempt" cards, purporting to exempt the bearer from ordinances requiring face coverings to be worn in public say they will find "different means" of distributing them after their websites were taken down.

Department of Justice officials issued a statement on the cards, some of which were branded with its logo, advising that they were fraudulent and were not issued by a government agency.

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.

In a statement provided to ABC News, the FTBA's communications team said the cards were "an educational tool," and that their purpose was "to educate the public on their legal and human rights under the Constitution of the United States of America."

The group also said they had issued a statement clarifying that the cards were not issued by the Department of Justice, adding that they would be pursuing distribution of the cards by other means.

"We already have several independent business outlets activated that are selling these cards and will be launching nationwide distribution," the group's communications team said.

The group said it created the cards after receiving complaints from "desperate citizens" across the U.S. who had medical conditions that prevented them wearing face masks.

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."

"It is our focus to educate the public about the importance of unobstructed oxygen to their overall well-being and help the community, increase natural immunity without sacrificing their freedom of responsible choice, their health and the health of others," Koloma said in a statement provided to ABC News.

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.

Related Topics