Free Oregon founder files complaint against Best Buy over mask mandate

Oregon

Tualatin Best Buy faces federal civil rights complaint after store refuses service

Personal protective N-95 masks (KOIN, file)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The founder and president of an anti-mask group has filed a federal civil rights complaint against a Best Buy location in Tualatin for enforcing the state mask mandate.

The complaint, which was filed on Jan. 3, 2022, alleges two Best Buy employees violated Ben Edtl’s Fourteenth Amendment rights when they denied him service after he refused to wear a mask while Christmas shopping with his wife on Dec. 17, 2021.

Edtl is the founder and president of Free Oregon, which, according to the lawsuit, is “a non-partisan grass roots [sic] movement dedicated to protecting individual rights and fighting tyranny in all of its forms.”

KOIN 6 News reached out to Best Buy for a statement on the complaint but did not hear back by deadline.

At the time of the incident, the Tualatin Best Buy location had posted signage that stated everyone who entered must wear a face covering, according to the lawsuit.

Court documents showed a Best Buy employee called local law enforcement to have Edtl and his wife trespassed and removed, after they refused to leave the store or wear a mask.

According to the initial complaint, Edtl was then escorted by law enforcement to speak with the store manager. He told the Best Buy supervisor that he did not believe the store’s choice to threaten trespass and refuse service were ‘reasonable’ efforts under OAR 333-019-1025.

Meanwhile, the lawsuit alleges Best Buy employees violated Edtl’s Fourteenth Amendment rights. The Fourteenth Amendment was ratified two years after the Civil War to give citizenship to everyone “born or naturalized in the United States,” including those who had been enslaved before the Civil War, and gave all citizens “equal protection under the laws.”

“I am suing Best Buy, not because I’m angry at them as a company — I have been a very loyal customer for many years,” Edtl told KOIN 6 News in a statement. “But because I want to send a message to every business, church, restaurant and anyone else who operates an indoor space open to the public, that forcing visitors to wear a medical device or deny them service is unconstitutional.”

In addition to suing Best Buy, court documents show Edtl is also including the two employees involved in the Dec. 17 shopping incident in the complaint.

Edtl is being represented by Attorney Stephen J. Joncus, of Joncus Law PC in Happy Valley, Oregon. In 2021, Joncus represented 42 plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit to block Oregon’s employee vaccine mandate, though that bid was denied by a federal judge in October 2021.

“Most states, even liberal ones have come to their senses on masks. Oregon is one of only 5 states that still impose mask mandates,” said Joncus. “My client along with many other Oregon citizens are fed up with it, and are taking action.”

In a statement to KOIN 6 News, Joncus called the State’s mask mandates illegal and claimed they were based on lies.

“Most businesses do not bother their customers by denying service for not wearing a mask. Businesses do not have to deny service to abide by the State’s mask mandate,” stated Joncus. “But, for those business [sic] that want to deny service to customers, I will be happy to help people like Ben Edtl sue them.”

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