OXFORD, England — Prime Minister David Lange of New Zealand, in trouble with his Western allies over his anti-nuclear policy, scored a narrow victory over the Rev. Jerry Falwell in their debate Friday at Oxford University.
Oxford students voted 298 to 250 in favor of the motion supported by Lange and opposed by Falwell, leader of America's conservative Moral Majority.
The motion declared, "Nuclear weapons are morally indefensible."
Lange, who barred nuclear-armed and nuclear-powered ships from New Zealand ports, has been criticized by the United States, and his action weakened the ANZUS alliance of Australia, New Zealand, and the United States.
Lange told the packed hall of the Oxford Union that New Zealand does not face the kind of threat confronting the United States and Western Europe and wants to keep the South Pacific nuclear-free.
New Zealand will never "shrink from its responsibilities" toward the Western Alliance, and proved so by fighting in World War II, by sending troops to Vietnam and maintaining peacekeeping forces in the Sinai Desert and Singapore, he said. "We have not given comfort to the Soviet Union, we have not undermined our Western allies."
Falwell attacked the motion, saying it in effect declared "Western values to be morally indefensible" because nuclear weapons are defending the West against Soviet expansionism and communism.
"That's the bottom line," he said. "It would be immoral not to guarantee the liberty that we enjoy."
To renounce nuclear weapons would be like a man with a gun finding a burglar in his home and refusing to use the gun, he added. "It's like saying: 'I'm a pacifist and I will not use the gun, so I may as well not even have a gun.' "
Falwell said that thanks to nuclear weapons, "nobody goes to bed in America afraid of being nuked." And if nations like New Zealand refuse to defend themselves, it is part of the American "moral code to take care of those who cannot take care of themselves," he said.