Sects (Latin "secta" = direction, school, party, and Latin "sequi" = to follow), eclesiastic and lay term for special religious communities whose doctrines, practice and organisational structures differ from those of larger religious groups. Often dominated by the personality of the founder or a special doctrine. The formation of sects can be observed throughout the history of Christianity (Gnostic sects, Cathari, Waldensians, Baptists and others) and other religions. The term "sect" does not exist in the Austrian law governing the relations between the state and religious communities. For the church, one criterion for judging special religious groups is whether or not they take part in the ecumenical dialogue.
Literature: Arbeitsgemeinschaft der Pastoralämter Österr. (ed.), Sekten und religiöse Sondergemeinschaften in Österreich (work file), 1978ff.; H. Gaspar et al. (eds.), Lexikon der Sekten, Sondergruppen und Weltanschauungen, 21990.