Principled, incorrigible, noble, high-minded: those are all words that come to mind.
One note about your question, though. If someone refuses to debate "out of first principle," that implies adhering to some sort of moral conviction, at least to me. In contrast, "sweeping under the rug" implies wanting to avoid the debate out of fear, in hopes that the problem will go away, or take care of itself (much like "sticking one's head in the sand"), or else because they have something to hide, such as a scandal. (After all, there's a reason it's dirt being swept under the rug).
Footnote: Funny how many seem to be interpreting the O.P.'s premise as a negative. When I read it, I immediately thought of Eric Liddell in Chariots of Fire. If I've been misled by my positive connotation to the word "principle," you might try close-minded or obstinate.