Some people are pathetic.
They'll do anything to avoid wearing a face mask during the coronavirus pandemic -- even try to use what at first glance appears to be a government-issued "mask exempt" card.
The cards are circulating on websites and social media. Some are from the Freedom to Breathe Agency. There's no government agency by that name; it's a private group.
People could confuse the group as being part of the government, though, because its cards include the seal of the U.S. Department of Justice. The cards threaten that any business or organization that refuses to allow the card bearer to enter without a mask, and without questions, could be fined.
"I am exempt from any ordinance requiring face mask usage in public," one variation of the card says in bold letters across the top.
"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," the card says.
Note the misspelling of "poses," and the incorrect citation of the disabilities rights law, which is the Americans with "Disabilities" Act. A government agency would not be so sloppy.
The cards do, though, include the correct phone number to file an ADA complaint with the Justice Department. For its part, the Justice Department says it has nothing to do with the cards despite the use of its logo.
The New York Times reported last week that the Freedom to Breathe Agency created the cards and is selling them in response to complaints and as "an educational tool" to help people "understand their legal and human rights so they can stand up to the unlawful, unscientific and unconstitutional mandates."
The Department of Justice, Federal Trade Commission and Better Business Bureau have issued warnings about such cards.
"Cards and other documents bearing the Department of Justice seal and claiming that individuals are exempt from face mask requirements are fraudulent," Assistant U.S. Attorney General Eric Dreiband said in a statement last week.
He said the department didn't issue or endorse the cards and the public should not rely on the information contained in flyers and online postings.
"Do not be fooled by the chicanery and misappropriation of the DOJ eagle," Matthew Martin, the U.S. attorney in Greensboro, North Carolina said in a warning June 25. "These cards do not carry the force of law. The 'Freedom to Breathe Agency,' or 'FTBA,' is not a government agency."
Dreiband's statement said, "The ADA does not provide a blanket exemption to people with disabilities from complying with legitimate safety requirements necessary for safe operations."
That's an important distinction.
In Pennsylvania, people with medical conditions are exempt from the state's requirements to wear masks when around others.
They don't have to show a card, or show evidence of their disability. Businesses and organizations must take people for their word.
The most-recent order issued last week exempts those with ailments including respiratory issues that impede breathing, mental health conditions and disabilities. People also are exempt if they are younger than age 2; can't remove a mask without help; work under conditions that would make wearing a mask unsafe; and need to communicate with someone who is hearing-impaired and needs to lip read.
There are some people who can't wear masks. I feel sorry for them because they may take heat from others who think they're not wearing one because they just don't want to, or to make a political statement.
State officials shouldn't force people to prove their illness or disability. Hopefully, political zealots and other troublemakers won't exploit that loophole. I have my doubts, though, especially with anyone so desperate as to carry a face mask exemption card.
Morning Call columnist Paul Muschick can be reached at 610-820-6582 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Originally published by The Morning Call, distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.