I think it tantamount to heavy-handed after-school activities. Parents have the right to choose which direction they will guide their children towards. A 'dependant' being a child who lives under you roof, eats your food - gratis.
I think church has the added bonus of allowing children to think outside themselves - this cannot be unhealthy.
If you are forcing your kids to go to church, that is basically brainwashing them. Kids are going to believe what they are being told because they are not old enough to know better. Once kids are older, they should read about different religions and then decide what they want to believe.
This is a matter of choosing to participate in religion or not. The parent should not be able to force the child to go to a church or even participate in a religion the child does not believe. Forcing a child to go to church is a violation of their rights. Someone brought up its no different than forcing your child into a sport. There is a difference one deals with religion and the other deals with physical activity. Even then I don't think that parents should be able to forced their children to do things within reason.
First of all, no one should ever be forced to do something that they don't want to do or don't have the ability to understand. Children's minds are a lot more fragile than say a teenagers. They soak in whatever they are exposed to and because that is what they are taught they lose the ability to form their own opinion. It's is equal to brainwashing. If you teach a child a certain ideology at a young age they might lose the ability to form their own opinion about that subject. That is why a lot of teenagers decide to leave the church when they enter high school because they are presented with other options other than religion.
At five a child should be brought to church if thats where the parents are going. You dont expect them to hire an unnessisary babysitter do you? Just as if the parents where going to the grocery store etc. When the child is 12 they can usualy be trusted to stay alone. The parents should sit down with their kids and talk about beliefs and values and the child should be able to reserch other religions with the parents help, and choose for themselves.
If you lead a child by hand they will never learn their own footing.