What is the Freedom to Breathe Agency? Fake government group issues fraudulent mask exemption cards
The group's mask exemption cards fraudulently implied that it was a government organization and claimed people could be exempt from wearing masks amid the pandemic
The Department of Justice has warned people of fake cards and flyers circulating on social media that claim protection from face mask mandates fraudulently citing the Americans with Disability Act (ADA). The "organization" claiming to issue these cards is known as the "Freedom to Breathe Agency" and is not known to be officially recognized by any government agencies as an enforcing body.
The card includes the official Justice Department seal and a logo for Freedom to Breathe Agency (FTBA) and states, "I am exempt from any ordinance requiring face mask usage in public." The card also includes the text, "Wearing a face mask poses 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."
The card also includes a number to report "violations" and cites that businesses could be "fined up to $75,000" for the first violation and "$150,000 for any subsequent violations." In the bottom part of the card, it states, "Denying access to your business/organization will also be reported to FTBA for further actions."
On June 26th, the Department of Justice confirmed that the movement to reject face-covering requirements is not backed by the government in a statement saying, "The Department of Justice has been made aware of postings or flyers on the internet regarding the Americans with Disabilities Act and the use of face masks due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many of which include the Department of Justice’s seal."
What is the Freedom to Breathe Agency?
While there was a Facebook group for the anti-mask group earlier known as the "Anti-Mask Task Force," it appears to have been deleted. The group was reportedly "designed to stop face mask orders from spreading nationwide and globally." The Facebook bio for the group stated, "Breathing is a vital biological activity to physical and emotional well being. Oxygen is No. 1 nutrient for every living organism including humans. Wearing a mask is an unhealthy obstruction of oxygen flow that can lead to hypoxemia and hypoxia, can permanently damage the brain, lungs, heart and about any organ. We must protect our birthright to breathe. This is NOT negotiable."
On its website, the group states under "Our Mission": "We believe in freedom of speech. We believe in the freedom to pursue happiness. We believe in the freedom to choose. We believe in medical freedom. We believe in equality. We believe that all humans and animals shall be free." However, the group's About page is still "under construction."
The group's founder Lenka Koloma, told CNN it wasn't making any recommendations to anyone and the group's mission is "freedom and personal liberty." But she went on to say that people should only wear masks, "whenever they wish to be silenced and muzzled."
Actual ADA recommendations
While it is true that businesses are not allowed to question the nature of a person's disability or request documentation proving the condition under the ADA, face masks are much more of a grey area. The ADA does not have any rules that address the required use of face masks by governments or private business owners. However, governments and business owners are still required to make "reasonable modifications" to their face mask rules to allow people with disabilities into their business.
The recommendations by the Southeast ADA Center and Burton Blatt Institute state that businesses should allow a person to wear a scarf, loose face covering, or full face shield instead of a face mask. Businesses should also customers to order online or by phone with curbside pick-up or no contact delivery in a timely manner. A person to wait in a car for an appointment and enter the building when called or texted and can be offered appointments by telephone or video calls.
Moreover, their advice makes clear that "the requirement to modify a policy, practice, or procedure does not include individuals without disabilities, as they are not protected under the ADA."