Oklahoma textbook bill passes -- without disclaimer

On April 28, 2004, the Oklahoma House of Representatives passed House Bill 2194 -- a bill governing textbook purchase contracts -- by a vote of 96–0. Conspicuously absent from the bill as passed was the disclaimer provision added to the bill on February 23.

The disclaimer provision would have required textbooks that discuss evolution to include a long disclaimer virtually identical to one previously proposed in Oklahoma in 2001 and 2003 and in use in Alabama from 1996 to 2001. The proposed disclaimer describes evolution as "a controversial theory which some scientists present as scientific explanation for the origin of living things" and "the unproven belief that random, undirected forces produced a world of living things." It also states, "No one was present when life first appeared on earth. Therefore, any statement about life's origins should be considered as theory, not fact."

As amended, HB 2194 was passed by the House by a vote of 96–0 and referred to the Senate's Education Committee, which removed the section containing the disclaimer; the amended bill was passed by the Senate on April 13 by a vote of 44–0.

When HB 2194 returned to the House, the Senate's modifications were accepted by a vote of 55–41. According to the Associated Press, the vote was primarily along party lines; Bill Graves (R–Oklahoma City), who proposed the disclaimer amendment to HB 2194, urged his colleagues to vote against accepting the Senate's modifications. "I'm angry ... that this evolution disclaimer won't get a hearing out here," Graves said. "We have the government taking away the rights of these children to know they were created by a God, and I think that's wrong." He added, "If you tell kids that they're not any different than animals, pretty soon they're going to start acting like that, and that's what we’re having in our society today.”

Opio Toure (D–Oklahoma City), the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, opined that the adoption of Graves's disclaimer would have resulted in litigation; Victor Hutchison, George Lynn Cross Research Professor Emeritus of Zoology at the University of Oklahoma, explained, "All the major professional scientific societies in this country have issued official statements explicitly supporting the teaching of evolution," adding, "The fossil record is just tremendous. We've got DNA that totally supports what we see in the fossil records. It's overwhelming evidence, and the creationists just say there isn't any or they just ignore it."