Reverend Janet Regina Hyland (1933 - 2007), a real Christian radical, stood for animal rights, the plight of migrant farm workers, and women's rights. She supported the sanctuary movement during the 1980s, and opposed Texas governor George W. Bush's execution of Karla Faye Tucker in 1998.
Many of the early American feminists —including Lucy Stone, Amelia Bloomer, Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton saw animal rights as social progress in the tradition of women’s rights and civil rights.
Count Leo Tolstoy similarly described ethical vegetarianism as social progress:
“And there are ideas of the future, of which some are already approaching realization and are obliging people to change their way of life and to struggle against the former ways: such ideas in our world as those of freeing the laborers, of giving equality to women, of ceasing to use flesh-food, and so on.”
Sara VanScoy writes on SojoNet:
"I have both an MD (psychiatrist) and master’s degree in divinity; I grew up in a Southern Baptist church in Jonesboro, Arkansas...But we don’t ordain women, we don’t have women deacons, and we will never call a woman 'pastor.'...When churches regard women as second-class citizens, they are espousing an ideology that is less than God’s ideal!"
A 1980 United Nations report states that women constitute half the world’s population, perform nearly <i>two-thirds</i> of its work hours, yet receive one-tenth of the world’s income and own less than one-hundredth of the world’s property.
Recent data shows:
- Women perform 66 percent of the world's work, but earn only 10 percent of the income.
- Women produce more than 55 percent of all food grown in developing countries.
- Women make up two-thirds of the world's nearly one billion illiterate adults.
One in five girls in developing countries never finishes elementary school, either.
The impact of the secular women’s movement upon organized religion is being heralded as a Second Reformation. Women are now being ordained as priests, pastors and ministers, while patriarchal references to the Almighty as "Father" are replaced with the gender-neutral "Parent." Jesus Christ is designated the "Child of God."
The words of the apostle Paul are seen today not as a divine revelation, but rather as an embarrassment from centuries past:
"Let the women keep silent in the churches, for they are not allowed to speak. Instead, they must, as the Law says, be in subordination. If they wish to learn something, let them inquire of their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church...let a woman learn quietly with complete submission.
“I do not allow a woman to teach, neither to domineer over a man; instead she is to keep still. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman, since she was deceived, experienced the transgression. She will, however, be kept safe through the child-bearing, if with self-control she continues in faith and love and consecration."
(I Corinthians 14:34-35; I Timothy 2:11-15)
Professor Henry Bigelow similarly observed: "There will come a time when the world will look back to modern vivisection in the name of science as they do now to burning at the stake in the name of religion."
Animal rights, as a secular, moral philosophy, may appear to be at odds with traditional religious thinking (e.g., human "dominion" over other animals), but this is equally true of democracy and representative government in place of the divine right of kings, the separation of church and state, the abolition of human slavery, the emancipation of women, birth control, the sexual revolution, LGBT rights, and all social progress since the end of the Dark Ages and the beginning of the Age of Enlightenment.
Reverend Janet Regina Hyland was raised Irish Catholic and attended Catholic school as a youth, but went over to the Protestants to become an evangelical minister, since the Catholics don't (yet) ordain women. She reverently referred to Jesus as "my guru."
Regina was vegetarian since the 1970s, but found it odd that some religious vegetarians also consider mind-altering substances like alcohol to be "unspiritual." Regina admitted that having been raised Irish Catholic, she enjoyed an occasional drink, and believed (like most Christians) that the Bible permits alcohol in moderation.
She said she religiously read a copy of Bhagavad-gita As It Is, which I sent her years ago. She obtained a copy of A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada's book,The Path of Perfection when living in Texas a few decades ago, and says that while she was attracted to Srila Prabhupada's teachings on yoga and meditation, she was put off by his (apparently) sexist comments about women.
Regina was the author of Sexism is a Sin: A Biblical Basis for Female Equality, and God's Covenant with Animals (which is available through People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA). She was involved with the plight of migrant farm workers, women's rights, and animal rights.
When I visited Regina in Sarasota , FL , in August 2003, I gave her a set of japa (prayer) beads (a "Hindu rosary"), but couldn't show her how to properly use them in the bead bag, since she was left-handed. Regina was familiar with Western astrology, but not Hindu astrology, and said she believed in reincarnation.
Regina said she was never close to her father, an idealistic journalist in New York City , who cared for no one and did nothing for anyone except watch TV. He died in the early '70s. Regina said she was close to her stepmother Mildred, even though Mildred was self-centered and narcissistic; Regina said she loved her dearly. Mildred passed away in the early '60s. On the other hand, Regina 's birth mother passed away in the late '80s.
Regina and her half-sister Jean shared a common birth mother, but different fathers. Jean was born in 1942. Regina and Jean had lived together since 1970, and from 1985 to 2007 lived near to one another, but Regina said they were never really close until 1995. Regina 's brother Don was born on May 18, 1935, and died of meningitis in June 1943.
Regina was married on July 2, 1954 to Glen Edward. Glen was struck by a drunk driver on August 9, 1954. He was in a coma for a year, and then in a persistent vegetative state for seven years after that. He eventually died. Regina became a widow at an early age, enjoying only a month of marriage.
Regina herself had suffered numerous afflictions. She faced an ovarian tumor in 1957 and described herself as having been "on the ropes," i.e., in and out of hospitals from 1961-63.
Regina began seminary studies in biblical theology in 1955-58, but didn't complete a Masters in Theology until the late '70s through early '80s. She studied with the Assembly of God Home Missions beginning in 1982, and was ordained on November 24, 1984.
Shortly before she passed away, I spoke to Regina Hyland over the phone. Among her last words to me were: "The Christian God cares (for animals)." Regina cared deeply for animals and was in the forefront of social change: religion and animal rights. Long before SERV (the Society for Ethical and Religious Vegetarians) was started, she published Humane Religion, a twice-monthly Christian vegetarian periodical.
Regina was the author (in 1988) of The Slaughter of Terrified Beasts, which was revised and expanded in 2000 by Martin Rowe of Lantern Books as God's Covenant with Animals. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) once described the book as a must-read for anyone tired of hearing the Bible misused to justify animal cruelty.
Regina wrote the foreword to my own book,They Shall Not Hurt or Destroy, and endorsed the book before it was published, calling it "a valuable resource," and "a must for every humane library."
Regina was an ardent feminist and described herself as a "dyed-in-the-wool Democrat." When I first contacted Regina in 1996, she was convinced the entire pro-life movement was a vast, right-wing conspiracy. Since then, I turned her on to Feminists For Life, Democrats For Life and Consistent Life (a coalition of peace and justice groups on the religious Left that takes a stand against war, abortion, poverty, the arms race, racism, capital punishment, and euthanasia—the Dalai Lama has signed their Mission Statement)...and before she passed away, she was hoping that as an alternative to abortion, science would come up with a form of contraception that even the Pope would approve of!
On April 14, 2007, she wrote me:
"...I want to take this opportunity to tell you how very much I appreciate your friendship, both in a personal sense and also as colleagues / activists. You are a blessing in my life..."
Regina told me she once attended a conservative Christian religious conference, but her reputation as a liberal Democrat, a feminist and an animal advocate involved with the plight of migrant farm workers had preceded her. She said when she arrived, they didn't recognize her. They were expecting a Gloria Steinem type, and instead saw (in her words) "an aging Debbie Reynolds."
Frances Arnetta (founder of Christians Helping Animals and People) condemns factory farming as "diabolical," and endorses vegetarianism as "God's Best for All Concerned," but refuses to say one must be a vegetarian in order to be a good Christian.
Regina, on the other hand, told me plainly about meat-eating: "It's a sin."
On July 21, 2007, she wrote me:
"I also received your paper on Krishna Consciousness and Christianity. Being familiar with Christian monasticism, I always saw many similarities between the two. When Catholics say the rosary beads, they are repeating the same prayers, over and over...
"When I was at the Assembly of God Seminary, we would attend revival meetings at local and rural churches...ecstatic behavior pretty much defined the services."
Regina was planning to attend the World Vegetarian Weekend festival in San Francisco at the end of September 2007, when she suddenly fell ill. I live in Oakland , and was looking forward to seeing her and selling her books with her.
She was pleased when I told her that I not only distributed her pamphlets and sold her books at World Vegetarian Weekend, but that I managed to sell a copy of God's Covenant with Animals to a group of Catholic high school students who had formed an animal rights club on campus. She had faith in the next generation.
Regina died of breast cancer October 9th, 2007—one day after a "Day of Fasting," designated by the Network of Spiritual Progressives in protest against the Iraq War. Her Hindu astrological chart has Jupiter in the 12th house, indicating a fortunate next birth.
She is missed by everyone who knew her. I know I miss her dearly.