'Freedom to Breathe Agency' Masks Exemption Cards Are Fake—How to Tell

A Facebook group dubbed the Freedom to Breathe Agency, or FTBA, is promoting fake face mask exemption cards featuring an eagle image reminiscent of the Department of Justice seal. Images of the laminated cards began circling social media on Wednesday and have been deemed fraudulent by the DOJ

The white cards, intended to prevent business owners from denying service to those without face masks, feature a red banner stamped with the words, "Face Mask Exempt Card," and includes the DOJ ADA Violation reporting number and the DOJ seal. The bottom corner of the card depicts the group's logo, an eagle above the FTBA's website.

The card reads: "I am exempt from any ordinance requiring face mask usage in public. 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."

It goes on to include a threat of sorts to business owners:

"If found in violation of the ADA you could face steep penalties. 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."

While it is true that businesses are not allowed to question the nature of a person's disability or request documentation proving the ailment, when it comes to face masks, things get tricky. A number of states including New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and others enforced rules requiring residents to wear face masks when visiting essential businesses or using public transportation due to the coronavirus pandemic back in April. In Washington state, Governor Jay Inslee issued a public health order on Tuesday requiring individuals to wear a face mask in indoor public spaces as well as outdoor public areas where social distance guidelines can't be regulated.

At the height of the pandemic, people in states like Michigan and Colorado protested against stay-at-home orders and argued that mandatory face coverings infringed their rights.

Originally established as the Anti-Mask Task Force on June 1, the renamed FTBA was "designed to stop face mask orders from spreading nationwide and globally," according to the group's Facebook page.

"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 birth right to breathe. This is NOT negotiable," the group's mission statement reads.

Newsweek has contacted the FTBA for comment but has not yet received a response.

The DOJ is already aware of the fake face mask exemption cards and wrote on its website that "these postings were not issued by the Department and are not endorsed by the Department."

'Freedom to Breathe Agency' Facebook Group
Queen Letizia of Spain holds her face mask during an audience with the Cercle d’Economia de Mallorca and the Cercle d’Economia de Menorca at Iberostar Cristina Hotel on June 25, 2020, in Palma de Mallorca, Spain. A Facebook group is promoting fake mask exemption cards. Clara Margais/Getty Images