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PHOENIX, Arizona, April 26, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) — The Arizona legislature sent Gov. Doug Ducey a bill last week that critics say empowers college administrators to restrict multiple forms of free speech on campuses.

HB 2563 passed the state Senate 17-13 and the state House 34-23. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) originally deemed the bill a promising yet imperfect measure meant to actually strengthen students’ protections, a conference committee has since made a small change that turns the bill’s entire purpose on its head.

It originally read that a “university or community college shall not restrict a student’s right to speak, including verbal speech, holding a sign or distributing fliers or other materials, in a public forum,” but FIRE’s Tyler Coward noted that the words “shall not” have been replaced with “may,” giving the sentence the opposite of its original meaning. “The bill’s new language would allow student speech rights to be routinely violated,” he said.

Given the legislature’s “track record of protecting student expression,” Coward allowed that the change may have been an accidental drafting error. But regardless of how it happened, he maintained that “this bill must not be passed by the legislature and must not be signed into law by Gov. Doug Ducey.” Instead, he said, the “legislature should either present Gov. Ducey with a clean bill this session, or wait until next legislative session.”

The College Fix associate editor Greg Piper called the new language “a pretty big effing accident” to be purely accidental.

“This is a roadmap for random, arbitrary, retaliatory and self-interested censorship of students who are doing little more than advocating for capitalism, peacefully protesting an alleged university takeover of their organization or even inviting passers-by to write on their beach ball,” he warned.

But Heritage Foundation analyst Jonathan Butcher disagreed with these assessments, telling CBN News that the language stating colleges “may restrict a student’s right to speak” was still subject to conditions that ensured “a school may only restrict speech if it is necessary to achieve a compelling governmental interest and it must be the least restrictive means of doing so.”

In FIRE’s previous analysis, Coward praised an earlier draft of the bill for creating a cause of action for students whose freedom of expression has been violated, but warned that it was vague enough to potentially allow students to sue each other rather than just administrators.

He also expressed concern that the bill’s provision on free speech zones could create confusion with an earlier law on the subject and took issue with its definition of “harassment.” And while FIRE welcomed the bill guaranteeing a right to legal counsel for students facing suspensions of more than 30 days, the group said it would rather see the protection start with suspensions of nine days or more.

Gov. Ducey is a pro-life Republican, but The College Fix’s Piper expressed doubt that he appreciated the bill’s potential danger.

“His own record on student speech is mixed,” he wrote. “Ducey vetoed a bill that overwhelmingly passed the Republican-controlled Legislature a year ago that would protect student journalists and their advisers from censorship and retaliation.”

“Let’s see if his advisers can at least carefully read the text of this newly approved legislation,” Piper hoped.