Former NSW Labor education minister Verity Firth has criticised the Gillard government's refusal to give ethics classes the same tax status as scripture classes, arguing it is inequitable and unfair to treat the religious and secular programs differently.
Last month Fairfax Media revealed the federal government had rejected a special request from the provider of ethics classes, Primary Ethics, which receives no government funding, to be granted deductible gift recipient (DGR) status so it could collect tax deductible donations.
Tax laws allow funds established to provide religious instruction in public schools automatic qualification for DGR status, a provision used by some religious groups to fund training and support for scripture classes in NSW.
Primary Ethics has warned that without DGR status its program may become unviable.
Ms Firth, who introduced the classes in 2010 amid opposition from religious groups and the Coalition, said she was disappointed by the federal government's decision.
''This was a long time coming, it was hard fought, and it would be really sad if this means ethics ceases to go ahead,'' she said.
Ms Firth said it was particularly unfair given her government had agreed not to give the provider of ethics classes any government funding in the interest of fairness.
The chairman of Primary Ethics, Bruce Hogan, said he had written again to Assistant Treasurer David Bradbury to ask him to reconsider the decision. ''We must fund ourselves from donations but the federal government is denying us the capacity to raise donations,'' he said.