A pair of Boston-area sidewalk evangelists – one of whom is confined to a wheelchair – claim they were roughed up by city police for little more than trying to spread the Gospel.

The Boston Herald reports Ann Cataldo, 50, and friend Ann Hayden, 35, “officially” were arrested for “panhandling” – requesting money from passers-by on the street – but they maintain they only were passing out religious literature for donations.

The paper said the women have claimed two police officers – John Curley and Michael O’Hara – used excessive force while apprehending them. One of the women, Hayden, says audio of the incident was captured on a tape recorder she carried in her pants.

And for the record, she now also is charged with illegal wiretapping, the Herald said.

“They have a hatred for God,” Cataldo – whose neck was supported by a cervical collar, a medical support device – told the paper.

She says she was injured after one of the officers punched her as she was handcuffed to her wheelchair.

Police arrested the women after receiving complaints from local business owners. Officers say they came by initially and asked the women to stop blocking a handicapped access in front of a local business.

They said they returned two hours later and found both women still there.

At that point the officers decided to arrest them. When Hayden refused to let go of Cataldo’s wheelchair so she could be handcuffed, she allegedly got into a violent struggle with the two officers, the Herald reported.

The officers say Cataldo “scratched and gouged” their arms during the arrest.

Boston Police Department spokesman Michael McCarthy says Cataldo has been invited to file a formal complaint against the officers with the department’s Internal Affairs Division.

“She has refused,” he said.

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