Some people in the U.S. are throwing fits over having to wear face masks in public, despite the fact they have more coronavirus cases than any other country in the world. Now, some people are going beyond selfish whining and committing straight–up fraud in order to get out of a wearing face masks in public.
Recently, face mask exemption “cards” and “flyers” have been circulating on social media that have a U.S. Department of Justice seal and say that the cardholder is exempt from wearing a face mask in public. The cards state the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) does not require that the individual in question reveal their medical condition to businesses or organisations and threatens fines of tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Some of the documents appear to have been issued by a group that calls itself the Freedom to Breathe Agency, per TIME, which can, according to the cards, “take further actions” if a business or organisation denies the maskless individual entry to their establishment.
Suffice to say that this group is not a U.S. federal agency and that these cards and flyers have not been issued or approved by the Justice Department. The department, as well as several U.S. attorneys, has come out and said that it has not issued the cards, posting a message directly on the ADA website, the law which the cards lean on to commit their fraud. The emphasis is made by the department.
“These postings were not issued by the Department and are not endorsed by the Department,” the Justice Department wrote. “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.”
U.S. Attorney Erica MacDonald of Minnesota issued a statement on the fraudulent face mask exemption documents on Friday and spoke to their illegality.
“The Department also has not granted permission for the use of its seal for this purpose. Misuse of the Department seal is a federal crime,” MacDonald’s office said.
In the statement, MacDonald reiterated that the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends wearing cloth face coverings in areas where social distancing may be difficult to maintain.
The CDC maintains that the coronavirus, which causes the disease covid-19, spreads mainly from person to person through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, talks, or raises their voice. The droplets can land in the mouths or noses of other people who are nearby or possibly inhaled into the lungs, the CDC states on its website.
Besides the CDC recommendation, some states, such as California, New York, and Michigan, have rules requiring their residents to wear face masks.
U.S. Attorney Ryan Patrick of the Southern District of Texas also denounced the fraudulent documents in a statement on Friday. In addition, he specifically addressed mentioning the ADA on cards and flyers. The emphasis is his.
“The ADA does not provide a blanket exemption that relieves people with disabilities from complying with legitimate health and safety rules,” Patrick’s office said.
TIME reached out to the Freedom to Breathe Agency, which it describes as a Facebook group that aims to resist government orders to promote or dictate wearing protective face coverings.
“Our Face Mask Exempt card was issued as an educational tool based on overwhelming amount of citizens reaching out to us for having health issues and unable to wear a mask,” the group said. “The exempt card was issued by FTBA and not ADA/DOJ. There was a misunderstanding with the seal and it was since changed to avoid any further confusion.”
It’s not clear what “misunderstanding” allows groups to make fraudulent documents that appear to be endorsed by the U.S. government. Nonetheless, if someone tries to use one of these documents to justify their reason for not wearing a mask, just know that they’re BS.