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Charity chief linked to the Moonies

Concern over contacts between the chairman of a leading pro-family charity and the Moonies. are expected to be discussed at a meeting of trustees next week.

Professor Richard Whitfield, who is also head of a religious think-tank founded by the Duke of Edinburgh, alarmed the National Family Trust by attending a convention linked to the cult in Washington DC ten days ago. The charity, whose patrons include Sir Yehudi Menuhin, Sir Harry Secombe and Sir Cliff Richard, is dedicated to strengthening the family.

Trustees are understood to have expressed unhappiness over Professor Whitfield's contact with the Moonies, also known as the Unification Church, before and are expected to discuss his position when they meet. Although unwilling to discuss the case, Jan Owen, the trust's administrator, said: "There is some concern."

Professor Whitfield, 58, is thought likely to oppose any attempt to remove him from a post which has given him a public platform for his opinions on the family. As honorary chairman, he gave his support to a woman charged with, then cleared of, assaulting her nine-year-old daughter by hitting her with a slipper. He has opposed older fathers having children because they have few working years left to support them. And at a meeting of the right-wing Institute of Economic Affairs, he called on single mothers to give up their children for adoption.

The latest development follows his three stormy years as Warden of St George's House, an institution founded by the Duke of Edinburgh at Windsor Castle to act as a centre for training clergy and as a forum for discussing issues of concern to society.

Although its work has received much praise and high-level participation, Professor Whitfield's time as warden has been marred by low staff morale, it has been claimed.

Three inquiries have been held into staff relations, but no action has been taken. In one carried out last year, an external investigator found: "(The Warden) is still not respected or trusted by most of the organisation and his management style, manner and personality create resentment and an unhealthy working atmosphere."

The investigator also noted Professor Whitfield was "seen as a bully who liked to 'pick on one individual', mostly women."

In the spring of last year, some staff expressed their lack of confidence in the Warden and embarrassment that the reputation of St George's House had been diminished by his words and action.

More recently, one senior female member of staff was given legal opinion that she has a case for constructive dismissal because of Professor Whitfield's behaviour.

Professor Whitfield was yesterday unwilling to disrupt his holiday to discuss the claims.

He said that he had been to America on "purely private business" and added: "You seem to have got hold of a range of half-truths. I've got no comment." A spokeswoman for the Duke of Edinburgh said that it was "entirely a matter for (the Warden)."