I should have been more specific. I was referring to academics involved in the scientific study of religion and there are quite a few fields and thousands of individual researchers. Some examples are the sociology of religion, historical anthropology of religion, ethnographic anthropology of religion, Religious Studies(which is its own field that combines bits and pieces from all fields), and the little folks...the psychology of religion.
The reason I say that "most of their work is unconsidered or discounted as extremist in academia" is due to several lines of evidence.
1. Michael told me this himself when we were on a project that was spearheaded by MeadowHaven. I had never met him before and we only had a few conversations together, in which I asked him about acidemias acceptance of his work. He basically relayed the above sentiment.
2. The work of these people highlight how fundamentally damaging these groups can be for individual members that leave/are expelled from the group. If their work was accepted there would most likely be some form of accepted and accredited counseling devoted to caring for former members. There are groups out there, like MeadowHaven, but these are people that have taken it on their own to train themselves how to care for former members. As it stands there are no programs of specialized training dealing with cults in any level of mental health care from psychiatry to psychology to counseling.This stands in stark contrast to the highly specialized nature of these fields.
If a person desires there are programs of training for nearly any area of interest. The lack of training signals from the powers that be that they don't believe there is a need for such training, i.e. the problem of cults is really a fictitious one.
3. Sociology. There are two major camps within sociology, the New Religious Movement folks and the Anticulters. Really to call it two major camps is a misnomer, it's more like New York City in contrast to Slapout, Alabama (like slapout in the middle of no where, yes it is a real place, haa). The last conference I went to, the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, had several talks around new religious movements and none around cults. There was one talk on deconverts from JW's, extremist fundamentalism, and Latter-Day Saints. That talk was couched in the overarching framework of fundamentalism. There is no way the speaker could have ever gotten away with calling them cults, even if that is what she believes.
4.I could keep going and talk about who get published in what journals/ publishing houses and why that matters, but it would belabor the point.
The plain and simple of it is they just ain't respected and that's a shame!