DuPage Unitarian Church takes part in ‘book smuggling’
By Wendy Foster For The Sun July 5, 2012 10:28PM
Members of DuPage Unitarian Universalist Church participate at the Unitarian Universalist Association General Assembly in Phoenix. From left are Bob Skrocki, Julie Barbosa, Karen Hutt, the Rev. Emmy Lou Belcher, Lena Neal and Kathryn Gelder. | Submitted
Updated: August 7, 2012 6:21AM
The Rev. Emmy Lou Belcher of DuPage Unitarian Universalist Church in Naperville is a self-proclaimed “librotraficante,” Spanish for book trafficker.
Late last month, thousands of people from around the country attended the Unitarian Universalist Association General Assembly in Phoenix. Many of the attendees “smuggled” in books that had been removed from some Arizona public school classrooms as Arizona House Bill 2281 banned ethnic studies courses from the curriculum.
“They took literature, much of which was either by or about Hispanics and American Indians, out of the classrooms. They no longer teach the classes, and so they no longer had the books,” Belcher said.
The “book smuggling” campaign was coordinated by Roger Brewin, minister emeritus of First Unitarian Church of Hobart, Ind. Brewin had learned about Tony Diaz, who coordinated a caravan of “book smugglers” from Texas into Arizona shortly after the ban was passed.
“When Roger heard about this, he decided he wanted to hook up with Tony Diaz to make the books available to the students,” Belcher said.
On behalf of the Huumanists, a group that is affiliated with the Unitarian Universalists, Brewin reached out to members of the denomination across the country to participate in a book drive and distribution effort.
The idea of the book smuggling campaign resonated with the congregation at DuPage Unitarian Universalist Church.
“We’re interested in freedom of the press and the right of people to read what they want to read, particularly when it has to do with their own ethnic group. The majority of students in this school system are Hispanic and Native American and the books about their ethnic backgrounds were removed from the shelves,” Belcher said.
A list of books was provided to the church, and six of those listed were brought by Belcher to the convention.
“Other members bought books while there were there. There was a display, and people could purchase the books while they were there,” she said. “Over 300 books were purchased so we were able to supply several libraries.”
On the final day of the Unitarian Universalist Association General Assembly, a parade carried the books to a new community center with a room completely devoted to the donated books.
“This was all symbolic, of course,” Brewin said. ‘It’s not illegal to have or sell these books; they’re not truly banned and we’re not really smugglers. But does the state legislature have the right to tell what materials should be used in the classrooms?”