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We consider a class of message-passing decoders for low-density parity-check (LDPC) codes whose messages are binary valued. We prove that if the channel is symmetric and all codewords are equally likely to be transmitted, an optimum decoding rule (in the sense of minimizing message error rate) should satisfy certain symmetry and isotropy conditions. Using this result, we prove that Gallager's Algorithm B achieves the optimum decoding threshold among all binary message-passing decoding algorithms for regular codes. For irregular codes, we argue that when the nodes of the message-passing decoder do not exploit knowledge of their decoding neighborhood, optimality of Gallager's Algorithm B is preserved. We also consider the problem of designing irregular LDPC codes and find a bound on the achievable rates with Gallager's Algorithm B. Using this bound, we study the case of low error-rate channels and analytically find good degree distributions for them.